Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Two Spammers Doing Time and One That Got Away

Just a short update before I head to the airplane . . .

The big news in the spam world this week has been the sentencing of Robert Soloway. Its actually been the big news for a couple weeks, with some great stories like CIO Magazine's "Soloway Case Reveals Big Business Behind Spam".

Last Friday I sat in my office with a 41-page Sentencing Memo from Soloway's Defense Attorney, and told my students, "This is not going to go well."

Honestly I read the document from Richard Troberman, Attorney at Law, with some skepticism, assuming that a lawyer for a spammer may not be the most altruistic person, but many of the claims were shocking.

Troberman claimed that "90% of the claimed losses" in the case came from 12 individuals, and then proceded to SMASH their credibility. Claims such as:

Marcia Branum, who calculated that Soloway had cost her $369,500, which she calculated by saying his spam cost her "80 hours per week times nine months at $30.00 per hour", with the rest of the claim being comprised of the fact that Soloway had caused "actual loss of potential in the first year alone of over $1,000,000.00" which is what she lost by not being able to to enter into an online business with a friend in California and a "3rd cousin in Ohio who are literally making millions" because she was spending 80 hours a week dealing with Soloway spam.

or Tamra Burgess, who calculated that Soloway had cost her $328,000, based on the fact that she spent "18 hours per day, at $50.00 per hour, for 365 days responding to spam". Troberman points out that when she complained about Soloway to the Better Business Bureau, she says "I haven't lost any money".

Ronald Carter estimated his losses at $250,000. He must have received quite a bit of spam from Soloway!

Matthew Hexter claimed a loss of $48,149, which was because he had been "guaranteed" a 400% increase in sales" by buying Soloway's spamming products, and had not actually seen that increase.

Eduardo Vanci says he lost $48,740 due to a four week interruption of service. Troberman points out that would mean Vanci normally earns $588,880 per year.

Troberman proceeds through his 41 pages, sometimes admitting fault, sometimes bashing witnesses who were "quite simply, not credible", and by the time I finished the document, I told my students, "He'll still get time, but not nearly enough. If this is really what the State brought against him, they need to do their homework better next time, if Troberman is telling the truth."

The sentencing is in. Instead of the requested Nine Years, Soloway will serve 47 months. Seattle PI broke the story with 'Spam King' gets nearly four years in prison.

On July 15th there was another spammer sentenced. I mentioned Adam Vitale in my blog back in November (And Now Some Good News), when his partner Todd Moeller was sentenced to 27 months in prison. Vitale now receives his own 30 months in prison for spamming AOL.

As an example of how little evidence we really need in court - this case focused on a SINGLE WEEK of email messages sent to AOL subscribers by "Trill" and "Batch1". During that week, back in August of 2005, the "g00dfellas", as the duo called themselves, sent 1.2 million emails to subscribers of AOL.

That's it? Well, not quite. But that's the majority of it.

And the one that got away?

(photo from: Daily Camera.)

"Fast Eddie", the 35-year-old Edward Davidson from Louisville, Kentucky, was sentenced to 21-months at a minimum security federal prison camp. He began his email marketing company in 2002, and became involved in "Pump and Dump" spam in 2005. Eddie was also ordered to pay $714,139 in restitution.

Apparently "Fast Eddie" didn't like prison, so while serving on a work crew on Monday, July 21st, he walked away. The U.S. Marshals Service has now taken over the search.

The Denver FBI has a press release regarding his escape on their site.

Fast Eddie, if you are reading this, you might like to know about the US Marshals Fugitive Safe Surrender Program.

Thinking of the US Marshals reminds me of the USA Series about the Witness Protection Program,In Plain Sight, which I link to here for no apparent reason. Haha!

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Trying a new setting. After turning on comments, I got about 20-30 comments per day that were all link spam. Sorry to require login, but the spam was too much.