A Weblog About Topics and Issues Discussed in the Book Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams

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December 20, 2004

Big Day in Court for Former AOL Engineer

SDNY court seal

Former America Online engineer Jason Smathers is scheduled to appear in a Manhattan federal courthouse on Tuesday, Dec.21 in connection with the theft of AOL's member database, which included approximately 92 million email addresses.

Associated Press scoopmeister Ted Bridis has learned that Smathers, 24, of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, will plead guilty at the proceeding to violating the CAN-SPAM law. U.S. prosecutors will recommend a fine and up to two years in prison.

An alleged co-conspirator, Sean Dunaway, 21, of Las Vegas, Nevada, has not yet been indicted for his involvement in the matter.

Since their arrest in June, both Smathers and Dunaway have been free, with travel restrictions, on $25,000 bonds. The court has granted numerous continuances to prosecutors prior to Smathers' arraignment this month.

AOL fired Smathers in June. The company has said that the stolen database included customer names, mailing addresses and email addresses, but did not contain credit card information.

The complaint filed by the U.S. last summer said that Smathers stole the AOL customer list in May 2003 while employed in the company's Dulles, Virginia facility. Smathers, who had worked for AOL since 1999, allegedly sold the information that month to Dunaway.

According to the government, Dunaway then re-sold the AOL customer data for $52,000 to a third co-conspirator, who used it to spam AOL members with ads for a variety of products. The unnamed co-conspirator served as a government informant in hopes of receiving leniency, according to the complaint.

Spam Kings readers know that Brad Bournival, the head of New Hampshire-based spam operation Amazing Internet Products, was the co-conspirator cited in the government's complaint. Bournival's involvement in the case was first reported in Chapter 9 of Spam Kings.

Bournival and his partner, former neo-Nazi Davis Wolfgang Hawke, primarily used the list to bombard AOL subscribers with email ads for Pinacle, an herbal supplement that the spammers claimed would enlarge penises. Bournival and Hawke were sued by AOL in March in the ISP's first action under the CAN-SPAM law.

Smathers is represented by Faith A. Friedman, an associate in the New York law firm of Jay Goldberg, which has defended clients including Donald Trump, Carl Icahn, and Willie Nelson.

Posted by brian at December 20, 2004 12:17 PM


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