Mark Anthony Townsend, 45, of Cedarville, pleaded guilty to one count of computer hacking in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1030, according to a news release from Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western Division of Arkansas.
The plea took place in United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas in Fort Smith.
U. S. Attorney Eldridge stated “This case involves the repeated invasion of email accounts on a staggering scale. Law-abiding citizens should be protected against hackers who seek to steal their personal information. This defendant violated the privacy of thousands of individuals in order to enrich himself at the expense of others. He has now been held accountable, and we will continue to do all we can to investigate and prosecute those that seek to compromise the security of ordinary people.”
Documents filed in the case from May, 2002 through June, 2013, Townsend operated and participated in an online Internet business which solicited customers that sought, in return for a fee, the passwords of email accounts belonging to other people.
Townsend and others that he recruited to participate in the business obtained those passwords without the permission of the password owners.
The defendant and others involved in the business emailed those passwords and screenshots to the customers upon payment of the negotiated fees. Through everything, Townsend and others obtained access to approximately 5,921 email accounts.
“Townsend faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the computer hacking offense, which resulted in victims’ losses of approximately $356,235.35,” the news release states.