September 14, 2006 4:49 PM PDT

FTC shuts down four spam rings

The Federal Trade Commission has shut down four illegal Internet spam operations, including two that hijacked computers to send sexually explicit spam.

In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Cleverlink Trading and its partners were ordered to pay $400,000 made from sending e-mail that offered the opportunity to "date lonely wives" and that violated nearly every provision of the Can-Spam Act, the FTC said in a statement on Thursday.

The Can-Spam Act requires that spam e-mail messages be labeled as ads, include the sender's postal address, provide an opt-out method, label sexually explicit material as such, and not show graphic sexual images in the initially viewable area of the message, among other things.

In another case, the FTC alleged that Zachary Kinion sent spam that advertised adult sites, mortgage rates and privacy software. It also said that Kinion paid others to send unsolicited e-mail messages and sent spam via so-called "zombie" computers without the knowledge of the PC owners.

Kinion was ordered by the Illinois court to pay $151,000, but the judgment was suspended because of his inability to pay, the FTC said.

Also in the Illinois court, Brian McMullen, doing business as BM Entertainment and B Pimp, was ordered to pay $24,193. The judgment was suspended for inability to pay, the FTC said. McMullen also pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to sending spam and unauthorized possession of access devices--credit cards--the agency said. He is awaiting sentencing on those charges.

In the fourth case, in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, William Dugger, Angelina Johnson and John Vitale were ordered to pay $8,000 for using "spam zombies" and not correctly labeling sexually explicit spam, the FTC said.

See more CNET content tagged:
CAN-SPAM Act, Illinois, spam, agency, e-mail

7 comments

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$8,000 instead of jailtime?
Paying $8000 as punishment for the crime of "using zombie PCs" (plus extras like not properly labeling spam) is a joke.

People that take over other people's computers, for whatever reason, should be put in jail. It has nothing to do with spam. Spam here is only the circumstantial evidence shown to convince the court that a crime was commited. There's no need for anti-spam laws to put people in jail for "using other people's computers without permision". Does law enforcement require that a crime be committed using a car that is "used without permision" of the owner? Does law enfoecement require that money taken "without permision" would be used for some illegal purpose or is it sufficient the "taking without permision" sufficient to put a person in jail?

There are plenty of reasons to put spammers in jail that don't require any kind of specific "anti-spam" laws. Spammers steal resources, break into computers and computer networks and use them without permision. Spammers steal people's and organizations identities to avoid having to deal with the consequences of their actions. All these are classifiable into "classical" crimes of fraud, breking an enrty, and others...

Spammers create a lot of damage that is forseeable and can be estimated. What the legal system perhaps needs is to learn how to cope with damages that are fragmented into minute pieces, and learn how to punish criminals that cause very little measurable damage to each individual that aggregates and becomes huge damage to a collective of individuals. No one will put a person in jail for stealing a dime from another person. But an employee of a bank caught stealing just 10 cents from each individual customer's account will face several years in jail, even though no single individual was really hurt. The same legal logic can apply to many crimes commited over computer networks, and the legal system should learn how to apply this logic, because criminals have already learned how to apply it to avoid punishment.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
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Should get jail time for breaking into other PC's
Creating zombie computers involves breaking into other PC's. That alone deserves jail time! He should be sentenced per PC he zombied.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
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Indeed..and judgement suspended?
What's up with suspending the judgement because they can't pay? Who cares? Garnish their wages...everyone else who gets a judgement has to pay (technically), so why not them? That's like saying "Don't do that!!" and then going and doing that yourself right in front of them...did they learn their lesson? No. Was there a consequence to their actions? No. What are we telling spammers and would-be spammers? Very lame....
Posted by fourpastmidnight (10 comments )
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Perhaps...
Perhaps the Judge is saying that while it looks like there may be money in spamming these guys who can't even pay an $8,000 judgement against them are proof that the money either isn't there or it's drying up.

I see that as a positive indication but must agree that jail time should have been included. As for using zombie PCs that could come from a separate court case but I suspect there's a difference in catching a guy using zombies and gathering all the evidence needed to convict them. They probably just figured they could get them for the spamming and didn't bother to go to the extra work of gathering the evidence to convict them for the zombies.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
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So....
If a clerk robs the till and takes $20, gets caught and can't pay the $20, he doesn't have to go to jail?
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
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Inability to pay?
The inability to pay should only prolong their sentence in jail.

About $1.00 per day should do the trick of stopping SPAM at it's ankles... or more like... at it's toes!!!

Walt
Posted by wbenton (522 comments )
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Inability To Pay?
***? Since when does the "inability to pay" exempt a convicted criminal from paying up?
Why not sell his pc/equipment at auction?
That'd be a start, anyway. Conster
Posted by Conster (2 comments )
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