“The World’s Most Notorious Illegal Spammer” Goes to Jail

UPDATE: November 24, 2009 – 12:30 p.m. Pacific

Posted by Tim Cranton 
Associate General Counsel

The Justice Department’s prosecution of Alan Ralsky, the self-proclaimed “Godfather of Spam,” was brought to a successful conclusion yesterday when U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani sentenced Ralsky to 51 months in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and to violate the CAN-SPAM Act.

Judge Battani also sentenced three of Ralsky’s co-conspirators to prison terms ranging from 32 months to 51 months in federal court in Detroit. 

The full details are contained in a press release issued yesterday by the Department of Justice.

As we blogged in June (see below), Microsoft’s Internet Safety Enforcement Team became aware of Ralsky’s network in 2004 and documented evidence of spam e-mails and botnets used to advance “pump and dump” stock manipulation schemes.  Microsoft turned the evidence over to the Department of Justice and supported the government’s three-year investigation, which was led by the FBI with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.

 

Yesterday’s sentencing is a significant success and sends a clear message that the courts take this type of illegal conduct seriously.  Thanks to the diligent efforts of law enforcement and prosecutors, even the most successful and sophisticated spammers may find themselves behind bars for a very long time.

We congratulate U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg and the many law enforcement agencies involved on the successful resolution of the case, and we remain committed to working with law enforcement worldwide to help protect the integrity of the Internet and safeguard our customers.

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Posted by David Bowermaster 
Administrator, Microsoft on the Issues

Earlier this week it was widely reported that Alan Ralsky, a 64-year-old Michigan man that a federal prosecutor described as “the world’s most notorious illegal spammer,” pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and CAN-SPAM charges.

The guilty pleas from Ralsky and four co-defendants are a credit to the hard work and dedication of U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg and trial attorneys Thomas Dukes and Mona Sedky Spivack, the prosecutors in the case, as well as the many law enforcement officials who helped conduct the complicated investigation, which included defendants from Canada, China and Russia. 

For years, Microsoft’s Internet Safety Enforcement Team has been actively investigating spam attacks, particularly attacks that are either done fraudulently in our name (i.e. pretending to be from Microsoft) or targeting our customers (like spamming Windows Live Hotmail customers). 

Some of our early work led to a $7.8 million civil judgment against Robert Soloway in 2005, and ultimately helped federal prosecutors in Seattle obtain a guilty plea from Soloway on fraud charges related to his alleged junk e-mail operations.

While tracking the activities of Soloway and other prominent spammers, our Internet Safety Enforcement Team, led by Associate General Counsel Tim Cranton, became aware of Ralsky’s network in 2004 and found evidence about both their operations and activities, including illegal spam such as stock “pump and dump” spam sent to our Windows Live Hotmail customers.    

As the press coverage explains, between 2004 and 2005, Ralsky and his cohorts sent millions of spam e-mails per day that included pitches for everything from mortgages to penny-stock scams.

As we normally do when we find evidence of potential criminal activity involving our networks or against our customers, we referred the evidence to the Department of Justice. We are pleased to have supported the government’s efforts in this case and remain committed to working with law enforcement worldwide to help protect the integrity of the Internet and safeguard our customers.

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