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Monday, March 17, 2008

King of Spam Faces Prison and Fines After Pleading Guilty

Robert Soloway, from Seattle Washington, also known as the "King of Spam", pleads guilty to charges of fraud and tax evasion and faces up to 26 years in prison and a $625,000 fine.
Anyone with an e-mail knows what spam is, the unsolicited emails, sent out in bulk. It is called junk mail, bulk email and is often referred to as UCE, meaning Unsolicited Commercial E-mail.

In this day and age, roughly 90 million email spam messages go out a day.

Robert Soloway made quite a bit of money by spamming people's e-mail, and in 2005 had already been convicted of spam charges in several civil cases and Microsoft won a $7.8 million judgment against him. He never paid those fines or judgments and, in fact, bragged in an online group discussion that "I've been sued for hundreds of millions of dollars and have had my business running for over 10 years without ever paying a dime, regardless to the outcome of any lawsuits."

Robert Soloway, 28, pleaded guilty to electronic mail fraud, "snail" mail fraud (mail sent via the U.S. Postal Service), and not filing a tax return in 2005,when he reportedly made over $300,000 from his spamming activities, according to his plea agreement.

In 2007 was arrested by the U.S. Department of Justice on a 35 charge indictment.

Prosecutors say Soloway used computers infected with malicious code to send out millions of junk e-mails since 2003. The computers are called “zombies” because owners typically have no idea their machines have been infected.

One of the charges against Soloway was for using botnets to send spam and disrupt other computers with Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDos) attacks.


Botnet is a jargon term for a collection of software robots, or bots, which run autonomously and automatically. They run on groups of "zombie" computers controlled remotely. This can also refer to the network of computers using distributed computing software. (Reference)

Soloway was accused of using Chinese ISPs to send out his spam e-mails using a database of 150 million e-mail addresses.

Because Soloway spammed through hijacked computers and open proxies, he has repeatedly violated both the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act of 1984 and the CAN-SPAM law of 2003.

Soloway has been in jail since being arrested in May of 2007 and it looks like he will be there for a long time to come after his sentencing on June 20, 2008.

The senior attorney for Microsoft told reporters in an interview, "There have not been a large number of criminal CAN-SPAM prosecutions in the U.S. This is significant."

This prosecution and guilty plea as well as a stringent sentence will hopefully make others think twice about commercial spamming.

Now if you will excuse this writer, I have to go empty 2,263 messages in my gmail spam folder.