By Graeme Wearden
November 17, 2005, 6:59 AM PST
A man described as Britain's most prolific spammer has been sentenced to six years of prison.
Peter Francis-Macrae's sentencing on Wednesday in the Peterborough Crown Court followed his six-week trial and his conviction on charges of fraudulent trading, concealing criminal property, threatening to destroy or damage property, making death threats, and blackmail.
Francis-Macrae of Cambridgeshire was accused of defrauding thousands of people by tricking them into sending him money to register an .eu domain name on their behalf. He was also charged with sending fraudulent e-mails to companies and claiming they had to pay a renewal fee to avoid losing their domain names.
It has been estimated that Francis-Macrae received up to $2.8 million (1.6 million pounds) through the scams.
Businesses that complained said that Francis-Macrae bombarded them with e-mails. Police and trading standards officers who investigated told the court that they were threatened with gasoline-bombing.
The jury also heard that Francis-Macrae ran the scam from his bedroom at his father's home in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire.
According to the London Times, Judge Nicholas Coleman told Francis-Macrae: "You deceived hundreds of people of countless thousands of pounds of their money. When investigated, following the countless complaints of your misdeeds, you resorted to threats to kill and a threat to set fire to property, and ultimately blackmail.
"Data security has been oversold in the media. The one-to-one ratio between records breached and consumers harmed, implied in much reporting, is off by several orders of magnitude."
"Knowing what we know now, shouldn't we ask more questions about commercial data brokers' operations? We need to go beyond security and inquire into the use of personal information."
"Ignorance threatens to spawn inefficient investments and regulation."
"Congress has failed to act. It's time for D.C. to let our 50 states take the next steps in protecting consumer privacy throughout the country."
"Personal information has value: Information is the currency of our economy. If you use information (and who doesn't?), you have an obligation to protect it. All should pay attention."