Notorious spammer Alan Ralsky and ten others have been indicted in the US over the alleged use of junk mail to promote stock fraud scams.
Ralsky (a long term fixture in Spamhaus's list of known spammers) his son-in-law Scott K Bradley and others, including a dual national of Canada and Hong Kong and individuals from Russia, California, Michigan, and Arizona have been charged over the alleged fraud.
The charges stem from a three-year investigation - led by agents from the FBI, with assistance from the US Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service - into a "sophisticated and extensive" spamming operation promoting a "pump and dump" scheme. The defendants sent spam touting thinly-traded Chinese penny stocks in a bid to drive up their stock price over the short term and sell at a profit before the inevitable crash and burn.
Investigators reckon the defendants earned around $3m during the summer of 2005 alone as a result of their illegal spamming activities. The types of products and services that the defendants pitched evolved over time, as did the types of illegal spamming techniques they employed.
According to the indictment, the defendants used various illegal methods to distribute the spam, including the use of proxy computers (ie botnet clients) to relay junk mail and the use of falsified headers in email messages. The content of the email messages was also filled with porkies.
The indictment alleges that the defendants earned profits when recipients responded to the spam and purchased the touted products and services. How Wai John Hui, 49, of Vancouver, Canada and Hong Kong, allegedly acted as a link between the spammers and their Chinese contacts. How was arrested in New York on Wednesday. Two other defendants - Scott K Bradley, 46, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, and Judy M Devenow, 55, of Lansing, Michigan - appeared in court on Thursday. The remaining defendants are being sought for questioning.
The defendants are variously charged with several federal criminal offenses, including conspiracy, offences against US anti-spam legislation (the CAN SPAM Act), computer fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.
A full list of defendants can be found in a DoJ statement of the case here. ®