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Area man charged in AOL list theft released

June 25, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - A Harpers Ferry man accused of stealing and selling 92 million screen names while working for AOL has until July 23 to surrender to authorities in New York, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York said Thursday.

Jason Smathers, 24, was arrested at his home Wednesday on a charge of conspiracy filed federally in New York City, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Smathers had to give up his passport and was released on pre-trial supervision after appearing in federal court in Virginia, said Megan Gaffney, the U.S. Attorney's office spokeswoman.

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AOL fired Smathers on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

Several attempts to reach Smathers Thursday were unsuccessful.

Authorities allege that Smathers, a software engineer, stole screen names while working at AOL in Virginia and sold them to Sean Dunaway, 21, of Las Vegas, in May 2003.

Dunaway, in turn, sold the names for $52,000 to people who send junk e-mail and also used them to promote Internet gambling, the U.S. Attorney's Office alleged.

Dunaway also was charged with conspiracy.

A criminal complaint alleges that Smathers used another employee's pass code to get to a secure database of AOL's customers in April and May of 2003.

Smathers compiled lists of customers' account screen names, ZIP codes and telephone numbers - plus credit card types, but not numbers, the complaint says.

The complaint alleges that a source outside AOL twice bought large lists from Dunaway. The source runs a business sending masses of unsolicited e-mails marketing herbal penile enlargement pills.

Authorities allegedly found AOL Instant Message correspondence on Smathers' laptop computer that referred to the lists.

In one excerpt in the complaint, Smathers allegedly wrote to another person: "I think I found the member database ... Just need to figure out how to get the SNs (screen names) it is spread over like 30 computers ... You can't talk about this."

Another excerpt says: "OK, I got it figured out ... will take time to extract ... I'd expect there to be around 100 million active screen names maybe more."

Smathers and Dunaway are two of the first to be charged under federal "can spam" legislation that took effect early this year.

The Associated Press and staff writer Tara Reilly contributed to this story

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