Scott Levine, former owner of e-mail marketing firm Snipermail, has been sentenced to eight years in prison on charges related to theft of more than 1 billion data records.

Levine, 46, of Boca Raton, Florida, was sentenced for 120 counts of unauthorised access of a protected computer, two counts of access device fraud and one count of obstruction of justice, the DOJ said. A jury in US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas found him guilty last August. .

Between January and July 2003, while working with others at Snipermail, Levine stole more than 1 billion records containing personal information, including names, physical and e-mail addresses, and phone numbers, the DOJ said. The data belonged to Acxiom, a repository of personal, financial and company data, including customer information held for other companies, the DOJ said. Acxiom offers customer and information management services, as well as marketing services.

Levine used "sophisticated decryption software" to illegally obtain passwords and exceed his authorized access to Acxiom databases, the DOJ said.

So far, there is no evidence that any of the data stolen by Levine or others has been used in identity theft or credit card fraud schemes, the DOJ said. Some of the data was resold to a broker for use in an advertising campaign.

"At first blush, downloading computer files in the privacy of your office may not seem so terribly serious," US Attorney Bud Cummins, of the Eastern District of Arkansas, said in a statement. "But, if you are stealing propriety information worth tens of millions of dollars from a well-established and reputable company, you can expect to be punished accordingly."