Cedarville Man Pleads Guilty to Computer and E-Mail Hacking
|U.S. Attorney’s Office April 14, 2014|
FORT SMITH, AR—Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that Mark Anthony Townsend, 45, of Cedarville, pleaded guilty to one count of computer hacking in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1030. The plea took place before the Honorable P.K. Holmes, III 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 e-mail 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.”
According to documents filed in the case, from May 2002 through June 2013, Townsend operated and participated in an online Internet business that solicited customers who sought, in return for a fee, the passwords for e-mail accounts belonging to others. Townsend and others whom he recruited to participate in the business obtained those passwords without the authorization of the victim e-mail account holders and obtained unauthorized access to those e-mail accounts. The defendant and others involved in the business e-mailed those passwords and screenshots to the customers upon the customers’ payment of the negotiated fees. Through the course of the scheme, Townsend and others obtained unauthorized access, in the form of passwords, to approximately 5,921 e-mail accounts.
The defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense, and the characteristics of the violations. 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.
This case is being investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Glen Hines is prosecuting the case for the United States.