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6/12/2007
12:04 PM
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California Man Gets 6-Year Sentence For Phishing

Jeffrey Brett Goodin faced a maximum of 101 years behind bars but received only 70 months during his sentencing for e-mail fraud Monday afternoon.

A California man who was found guilty in January of operating a sophisticated phishing scheme that attempted to dupe thousands of AOL users received a prison sentence Monday of 70 months -- a fraction of the 101 years he could have been given.

In the first jury conviction under the Can-Spam Act of 2003, Jeffrey Brett Goodin, of Azusa, Calif., was convicted of sending thousands of e-mails set up to appear to be from AOL's billing department to the company's users, prompting them to reply with personal and credit-card information. He then used the information to make unauthorized purchases, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

The conviction brought with it a potential sentence of 101 years in federal prison. Goodin, though, now is set to serve about six years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rozella Oliver, who represented the government in yesterday's sentencing, said she had pushed for a minimum of 94 months, but the judge factored in mitigating circumstances, such as Goodin's lack of a criminal history.

"A sentence of almost six years sends a message to other phishers and online scammers that we will go after people who commit these crimes," said Oliver in an interview. "Justice was done, so that's always a good day."

The evidence presented during the week-long trial showed that Goodin used several compromised EarthLink accounts to send the fraudulent spam. Users were urged to update their AOL billing information or risk losing service. The e-mails, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, referred people to one of a list of Web pages where they were directed to input their personal and financial information. Prosecutors contend that Goodin controlled the Web pages, and he subsequently collected the information and then made charges on people's credit or debit cards.

Oliver said the government only presented evidence of 15 or 16 victims during the trial. "Were there more? Yes," she said. "You could spend years figuring out how many individuals were in fact scammed."

Goodin also was found guilty of 10 other counts, including wire fraud, aiding and abetting the unauthorized use of an access device (a credit card in this case), possession of more than 15 unauthorized access devices, misuse of the AOL trademark, attempted witness harassment, and failure to appear in court.

Oliver said Goodin is being held and there will be no lag time between yesterday's sentencing hearing and when he begins serving his time. He has been detained in custody ever since he failed to appear for a court hearing.

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