Jury Finds 2 Guilty of Felony Spam

Jury Finds 2 Guilty of Felony Spam (WaPo)

Two North Carolina residents yesterday became the first people in the nation to be convicted on felony spamming charges after a Loudoun County jury found that they flooded tens of thousands of America Online e-mail accounts with unsolicited e-mail, prosecutors said. Jeremy Jaynes, 30, and his sister Jessica DeGroot, 28, both of the Raleigh area, were found guilty of three felony charges each for using phony Internet addresses to send large volumes of e-mail ads through an AOL server in Loudoun. The jury recommended that Jaynes spend nine years in prison and that DeGroot pay $7,500 in fines for violating Virginia’s anti-spam law. A third defendant, Richard Rutkowski, 30, also of the Raleigh area, was acquitted of three felony counts.

Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, whose office prosecuted the case, called the convictions a victory in the fight against spam, which, according to some experts, accounts for more than 70 percent of all e-mails and costs businesses $10 billion a year to filter or block. “This is a major victory for Virginians and all Americans,” Kilgore said. “Spam is a nuisance to millions of Americans, but it is also a major problem for businesses large and small because the thousands of unwanted e-mails create havoc as they attempt to conduct commerce.”

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Experts said yesterday that the convictions could embolden and guide other prosecutors as they attempt to stop spammers, who have generally faced civil lawsuits brought by Internet service providers. But they said it will take many convictions and more sophisticated technology to stop spam. “We only need a few thousand more cases like this and we’ll have a real dent in the spam problem,” said Ray Everett-Church, general counsel for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email. “It’s a terrific challenge and all indications are that for every spammer you take off the streets there’s at least one if not more that come up to take their place.”

Nine years in prison sounds like a long time for sending annoying e-mails. On the other hand, I really hate spam.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. McGehee says:

    I think the judge misunderstood and thought they had invented the canned mystery meat.

    On second thought, nine years would be too good for ’em if they’d done that.

  2. 42nd SSD says:

    Unless I’m misremembering it’s not just spam–the guy made $10-$20 million by ripping people off. I would rather have seen him fined $30 million; while 9 years of prison sentence is a serious deterrent, for these sorts of people a major financial hit might work even better.

    Though I can’t say I feel *too* sorry for the people who got ripped off… these scams are almost always insanely transparent, and it takes a serious dolt to be taken in.

    IMO the legal approach isn’t the right answer. I sincerely appreciate their efforts, but all they’ll accomplish in the end is to drive these operations overseas and/or further underground. There are technical solutions that really work and don’t involve filtering (throwaway/ephemeral email addresses); despite a substantial amount of email traffic, I haven’t received *any* spam in the last 30+ months.

    I’m sure we can solve this problem at little or no inconvenience to the typical user, and it won’t require much (if any) “new” technology.