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A former computer system engineer was sentenced Monday to 22 months in prison, suspended for four years, in Japan’s first established “phishing” case for creating a replica of Yahoo Japan Corp.’s Web site and stealing personal information from users of the nation’s largest portal.

According to the ruling, the defendant, Kazuma Yabuno, 42, created and ran a Web site around February this year that looked like Yahoo Japan’s Web site, and obtained account numbers and passwords of Yahoo members who accessed the fake site.

He then illegally accessed the Yahoo Japan server by using the stolen account numbers and passwords to read their e-mail, the ruling said.

The Web site created by Yabuno had almost the same design as Yahoo Japan’s, with the only difference being that the “h” in the “Yahoo” logo was replaced with “f.” He was arrested in June.

The defendant “bears a grave responsibility because he infringed on the privacy (of Yahoo Japan members) by abusing his abundant knowledge of computers,” Judge Mitsuaki Takayama said in the ruling. “However, he did not use the stolen information to commit other crimes.”

Phishing is a scheme to lure Internet users to a bogus Web site that uses the real organization’s logo to trick users into providing private information.

The Tokyo-based Yahoo Japan operates an online information portal offering a search engine, auctions, online shopping and other services.

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