Trial Begins in Arkansas Hacker Case

July 12, 2005

By David Hammer, The Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Four Acxiom Corp. employees told jurors Tuesday about their discovery that the database-management company's computer system had been penetrated, and how they responded.

The group testified as federal prosecutors opened their case against a Florida man accused of hacking into Acxiom Corp.'s system and downloading credit card numbers and other personal information.

Scott Levine, former chief executive of the bulk e-mail firm Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla., faces 144 counts from a July 2004 indictment in what prosecutors described as one of the largest computer crime cases ever. Levine is accused of stealing 8.2 gigabytes of information from Acxiom, one of the world's largest database companies. The violations occurred from around April 2002 to August 2003.

The data included names, home addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, bank and credit card numbers involving millions of individuals. But prosecutors determined that no identity fraud was committed. There was, however, a sale of information to a marketing company, prosecutors say.

Tuesday, Levine trucked several boxes of documents from U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson Jr.'s courtroom after five government witnesses testified in the case.

Jamie Holt, Jay Calloway, Dave Cramer and Steve Bour described how they discovered their data had been breached and how they reported it to the FBI and Secret Service. U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins said that turned out to be a great benefit to the investigation.

"It turned out to be advantageous to us because the FBI and Secret Service have different assets in different parts of the country, with their expertise in cybercrime," Cummins said.

Levine's former colleague at Snipermail, Jeff Berstein, also began testimony for the government Tuesday by describing Snipermail's inner workings. After the jury was dismissed for the day, Levine's lawyer, David Garvin, asked Wilson to exclude testimony about Levine's previous role as the head of a Florida energy resaler called Friendly Power.

The prosecutors argued that Snipermail essentially picked up where Friendly Power left off after it was fined $250,000. Wilson was still considering the matter Tuesday evening.

Some of the evidence in the case is sealed and Wilson signed an order Tuesday "barring the gratuitous identification of Acxiom clients affected by the facts that give rise to this case."

The indictment alleged that Levine and six co-workers decrypted passwords to gain greater access to Acxiom data and would "incorporate the stolen data into the Snipermail system and sell the newly acquired information together with their existing data to Snipermail clients."

The counts against Levine included unauthorized access of a protected computer, conspiracy, access device fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

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