Levine stands accused of hacking into the private network of Little Rock, Ark.-based marketing company Acxiom Corp. and raiding its database of contact information on millions of people the company collects for marketing purposes.
Levine, the owner of Boca Raton, Fla.-based email marketing company Snipermail.com Inc., allegedly raided 8.2 gigabytes of information over a year's time, estimated to have caused Acxiom $7 million in damages, the DOJ stated.
Data removed from the Acxiom database included names, email addresses, phone numbers, and personal banking information.
Along with charges against Levine, federal prosecutors in Arkansas also charged six of his employees, all of whom reached agreements with the U.S. Attorney's Office on Friday. Some of those settlements will include guilty pleas, the attorney's office told XBiz.
Charges also include allegations that Levine and his employees deliberately concealed computers from investigators in order to hide their "illicit" activity and avoid prosecution.
Levine and his employees took advantage of a prior business relationship with Acxiom and allegedly used decrypted passwords to break into the network. All information stolen was then incorporated into Snipermail's system and sold to another email marketing company, said the DOJ.
The Snipermail website has since been disabled.
Investigators began their investigation in July 2003 during the course of an unrelated investigation into a similar break-in of the Acxiom network. During the course of that investigation, it was discovered that there had been a second set of intrusions into Acxiom from a different Internet protocol address that traced back to Scott Levine.
The DOJ is making an example of Levine's case to ward off other hackers who attempt to steal personal identification information on individuals and sell it to other spammers.
“The protection of personal information stored on our nation’s computer systems is critical to public trust in those networks and to the health of our economy,” said Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray. “We will aggressively pursue those who steal private information from computer networks and make it clear that there are serious consequences for such crimes.”
Levine's hack job on Acxiom is considered one of the largest cyber crime cases ever recorded.