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Spammers get more than 5 years in jail plus $175,000 in fines


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October 16, 2007

Two long-time spammers have been successfully prosecuted for sending out millions of unsolicited email messages promoting pornographic websites and reaping millions of dollars in the process. Jeffrey Kilbride of Venice, California was sentenced to six years and James Schaffer of Paradise Valley, Arizona was sentenced to five years and three months to be served in Arizona.

The two men were prosecuted under the federal CAN-SPAM act.

Between January 20, 2004 and June 9 of the same year, the two spammers sent AOL members with millions of spam emails, prompting more than 600,000 complaints.

Kilbride and Schaffer also engaged in conspiracy, money laundering, fraud and transportation of obscene materials.

U.S. District Judge David Campbell sentenced the two after a three-week trial, giving Kilbride a stiffer penalty for attempting to keep a government witness from testifying.

For a while, the two spammers covered their tracks successfully by using servers based in Amsterdam and logging in remotely to make it look as though the messages originated from outside the United States. They deposited their funds in offshore bank accounts.

In addition to their jail terms, Kilbride and Schaffer were fined US $100,000 and ordered to pay damages to AOL of $77,500.

Their million-dollar revenues -- at least $1.13 million according to some accounts -- have all been seized.

Additionally, partners-in-crime Jennifer Clason of Tempe, Arizona, Andrew Ellifson of Scottsdale, Arizona and Kirk Rogers of Manhattan Beach, California all pleaded guilty to the charges and turned state's evidence against Kilbride and Schaffer.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos said "the arrests and successful prosecution illustrate the progress law enforcement agencies are making, both in the United States and across borders in getting the Internet rid of email spammers."

Cluley added that "a couple of years ago, international cooperation and prosecution efforts were not nearly as strong. Today, we are hearing more and more stories about the arrest of spammers. This is just one more to add to the long list of troublemakers."

There have been other high-profile arrests and prosecutions of notorious spammers. Earlier this year, 27-year old Robert Soloway, alleged to be the world's most prolific spammer, was arrested for allegedly harnessing an army of zombie computers to send out huge volumes of unwanted e-mails.

A federal grand jury in Seattle indicted him on 35 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering, as well as violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

In addition to law enforcement agencies, companies are becoming savvier about going after spammers. Earlier this year, Park City, Utah-based Unspam Technologies sued anonymous spammers as part of a worldwide effort to catch people who harvest e-mail addresses from Web sites and then use them to pitch products or steal identities.

That marked the first attempt to go after the middle man as opposed to the actual spammers.

That lawsuit was also filed under the CAN-SPAM law. It's unlikely that sending a couple of spammers to prison will have much of an impact on the overall problem that has now reached global proportions.

Cluley added that "there will still be more spam arriving in people's in-boxes tomorrow."

Paul Henry, v.p. of technology with Secure Computing said "at best, the impact of Kilbride and Schaffer's jail terms and stiff financial penalties will be limited. There's no doubt that the overall balance between active email spammers and prosecutors still remains deeply tilted in favor of the spammers.

Henry added "there is so much spamming activity out there and too many financial incentives to continue. Do I think a spammer will get up today, hear the news about the sentence and decide it is time to stop? I don't think so. Nevertheless, time will tell."

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Source: The Chicago Tribune


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