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AOL phisher jailed for 7 years

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A Connecticut man was sentenced to seven years in prison on Wednesday for masterminding a phishing scam targeting AOL members.

Michael Dolan, 24 and of West Haven, Connecticut, was also ordered to serve three years' probation after his release. Dolan pleaded guilty to fraud and aggravated identity theft offences last year as part of a plea bargaining agreement. Normally this should have counted in his his favour but Dolan received a harsh sentence anyway because of his previous form and alleged conduct while awaiting trial.

Over the course of four years between 2002 until 2006, Dolan's confederates used unspecified hacking tools to harvest AOL screen names from chat rooms. These AOL members were then targeted for attack, commonly using emails posing as electronic greeting cards from Hallmark, which were actually loaded with Trojan horse malware. Infected users were prevented from logging on normally and steered towards a bogus site run by Dolan and five accomplices.

Locked-out users were prompted to hand over financially sensitive information and other personal information, including credit card details and social security numbers, at the bogus site. Dolan and his crew then used this information to make fraudulent online purchases of high-price items such as gaming consoles or laptops, or to create counterfeit credit cards.

The gang also spammed AOL members with fake messages that posed as email from AOL's billing department, claiming that their credit card data had been lost and needed to be resubmitted, again to the same bogus site that featured in the lock-out scam.

Prosecutors claimed that the gang raked in $400,000 from 250 or more victims during the four year course of the scam, PC World reports.

Dolan allegedly attempted to bribe a co-defendant, persuaded his girlfriend to submit false testimony and threatened a witness. These claims cut more ice in sentencing than defence mitigation arguments that Dolan was distraught and making poor decisions following his father's suicide.

Prior to the AOL phishing charged, Dolan was sentenced to two years' probation in May 2004 for hacking offences but wound up receiving a nine-month sentence in 2006 after he was found guilty of violating the terms of his supervision order.

Keith Riedel, another defendant in the case, is due to be sentenced on Thursday. A DoJ statement on the sentencing will probably follow after that but for now we can only refer back to a backgrounder published after Dolan pleaded guilty in August last year. ®

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