America Online late Wednesday acknowledged that a former employee stole a list of AOL screen names in 2003 and sold it to spammers. The announcement comes amid a series of initiatives deployed by the Dulles, VA-based company in the ongoing battle against spam. U.S. investigators later verified the arrest in a Reuters news report. According to the report, Jason Smathers of Harpers Ferry, W. Va., was charged with stealing a list of 92 million AOL customer screen names and selling them to Internet marketer Sean Dunaway of Las Vegas, according to David Kelley, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. An AOL spokesman said Smathers has been fired from the company.
"AOL has uncovered no information indicating that this theft involved member credit card or password information stored by AOL," an AOL spokesman said in a prepared statement. "AOL rapidly brought this information to the attention of federal law enforcement, and this morning, the AOL employee was arrested and charged with criminal activity relating to the theft of these screen names."
"We deeply regret what has taken place and are thoroughly reviewing and strengthening our internal procedures as a result of this investigation and arrest," the spokesman said.