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Employee sells 92m names

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An AOL employee has been arrested and charged with conspiracy, after selling 92 million screen names to an Internet gambling operator in Las Vegas. 24-year-old Jason Smathers found out how to access what the charges describe as AOL's "highly secure database" when he was assigned another employee's laptop PC. All the instructions he needed were on the machine.

Using his, er, AOL email account, Smathers got in touch with Sean Dunaway, who then sold the list onto spammers. Dunaway later boasted of using the list to boost his own Internet business and charged $52,000 for the full list, or $2000 for each letter of the alphabet, according to police charges. Smathers also gave himself away by using his new database privileges to first check on his own AOL account.

The scam came to light when one of Dunaway's customers, whose job we learn, "is primarily the sending out of masses of unsolicited e-mail marketing herbal penile enlargement pills." This source, who isn't named, hopes to mitigate his participation in spamming.

It may be the first time anyone has had a reason to stand up and salute someone working in this particular line of business.

The prosecution, if successful, will be a high-profile victory for the much-derided CAN-SPAM Law: Smathers and Dunaway face up to five years in jail, or six figure fines. AOL stressed that Smathers, who has been sacked, didn't gain access to credit card records. ®

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