A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted a Missouri woman Thursday for her alleged role in a MySpace hoax on a teen neighbor who committed suicide after being spurned by the "boy" in the fake profile.
Lori Drew, of Dardenne Prairie near St. Louis, was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress on the girl.
Drew allegedly helped create a false-identity MySpace account to contact Megan Meier, who thought she was chatting with a 16-year-old boy named "Josh Evans."
Megan, 13, hanged herself at home in October 2006 after receiving cruel messages, including one stating the world would be better off without her.
Drew's attorney, Jim Briscoe, did not return FOXNews.com's requests for comment about the indictment.
Drew has denied creating the account and sending messages to Megan.
U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said the federal statute on accessing protected computers has been used before to address Internet hacking, but this was the first time it has been used in a social-networking situation.
"This was a tragedy that did not have to happen," O'Brien said.
Both the girl and MySpace are named as victims in the case, he said.
MySpace, a social networking site, is owned by Beverly Hills-based Fox Interactive Media Inc. The indictment noted that computer servers are located in Los Angeles County.
Due to juvenile privacy rules, the indictment refers to the girl as M.T.M., the U.S. attorney's office said.
FBI agents in St. Louis and Los Angeles investigated the case, said Salvador Hernandez, assistant agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office. He called the case heart-rending.
"The Internet is a world unto itself. People must know how far they can go before they must stop. They exploited a young girl's weaknesses," Hernandez said.
"Whether the defendant could have foreseen the results, she's responsible for her actions," he said.
The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. Each count of accessing protected computers carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison. In all, Drew could face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.
Drew will be arraigned in St. Louis and then moved to Los Angeles for trial.
The indictment said MySpace members agree to abide by terms of service that include, among other things, not promoting information they know to be false or misleading; soliciting personal information from anyone under age 18 and not using information gathered from the Web site to "harass, abuse or harm other people."
The indictment charged that Drew and others, who were not named, conspired to violate the service terms from about September 2006 to mid-October of that year.
They registered as a MySpace member under a phony name and used the MySpace account to obtain information on the girl, the grand jury alleged.
Drew and her co-conspirators "used the information obtained over the MySpace computer system to torment, harass, humiliate, and embarrass the juvenile MySpace member," the indictment charged.
After the girl killed herself, Drew and the others deleted the information for the account opened under the phony name, the indictment said.
Last month, 19-year-old Ashley Grills, an employee of Drew, told ABC's "Good Morning America" she created the false MySpace profile, but said Drew wrote some of the messages to Megan.
Grills also claimed Drew suggested talking to Megan via the Internet to find out what Megan was saying about her daughter, who was a former friend.
Grills also said she wrote the message to Megan about the world being a better place without her. The message was supposed to end the online relationship with "Josh" because Grills felt the joke had gone too far.
"I was trying to get her angry so she would leave him alone and I could get rid of the whole MySpace," Grills told the morning show.
Megan's death was investigated by Missouri authorities, but no state charges were filed because no laws appeared to apply to the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. MySpace is a subsidiary of News Corp., the parent company of FOXNews.com.