CYBERSPACE, 2004 (D.O.T.) - U.S. authorities have charged an employee of America Online and an accomplice in a plot to steal data on 30 million AOL customers – some 92 million e-mail addresses - for sale to spammers.

US Attorney David Kelley announced the arrests of Jason Smathers, 24, an AOL software engineer, and his accomplice, identified as Sean Dunaway, 21, of Las Vegas , Nevada.

A compliant filed in federal court charges the two with conspiracy to steal AOL's entire subscriber list, and to use it "to send massive amounts of unsolicited commercial e-mails -- also known as spam -- to millions of AOL's customers," according to a statement from the prosecutors.

The case is among the first criminal actions to be filed under the federal CAN-SPAM act that took effect in January, prosecutors noted.

The complaint charges that Smathers used his skills in computer engineering to misappropriate the 92 million AOL "screen names" which are also e-mail addresses. It said Dunaway purchased the list from Smathers and sold it for $52,000 to spammers.

Dunaway later bought an updated version of the list for $100,000 and resold it again. Spam is seen as lucrative because promoters can make money if even a small percentage of the millions of e-mail recipients buy the products promoted.

Smathers was arrested at his home in West Virginia, and Dunaway in Las Vegas.
They each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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