The FBI recently announced that two alleged operators of a U.S.-based e-mail hacking Web site, and three alleged customers of other hacking Web sites based overseas, have been charged in Los Angeles with obtaining unauthorized access to e-mail accounts (h/t Computerworld).

Mark Anthony Townsend, 45, and Joshua Alan Tabor, 29, who operated the e-mail hacking site, were each charged with a felony violation that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. According to court documents, Townsend and Tabor provided customers with passwords to almost 6,000 e-mail accounts in exchange for payments made via PayPal.

The other three defendants were charged with misdemeanor offenses for hiring hackers -- each faces up to one year in prison. John Ross Jesensky, 30, allegedly paid a Chinese Web site $21,675 for e-mail account passwords; Laith Nona, 31, allegedly paid approximately $1,081 for e-mail account passwords; and Arthur Drake, 55, allegedly paid approximately $1,011 for e-mail account passwords.

The charges are the result of an internal investigation coordinated by the FBI in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the Naval Criminal Investigation Server, Romania's Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, Romania's Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, India's Central Bureau of Investigation, and China's Ministry of Public Security.

As part of the operation, four people were also arrested in Romania, one in India, and one in China, in connection with the e-mail hacking Web sites,,,,,,,, and

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