Tuesday, June 30, 2009

USA: "spam king" pleads guilty and will go to jail

[law.com] America's so-called spam king and his cohorts are going to prison.

Alan Ralsky, whom federal prosecutors called one of the world's most notorious spammers, and four co-defendants pleaded guilty on Monday in federal court in Detroit for their roles in an international spamming scheme that sent billions of illegal e-mail advertisements to pump up Chinese "penny" stocks. The defendants then reaped profits by causing trades in these same stocks while others bought at the inflated prices, prosecutors alleged.

All five defendants will be sentenced on Oct. 29.

Ralsky, 64, of West Bloomfield, Mich., who served as the chief executive officer and primary deal maker for the spam operation, pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, including wire fraud, money laundering and violating the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM Act), which prohibits the falsification of certain information used in the transmission of e-mail. He faces up to 87 months in prison and a $1 million fine.

"He, like anyone else, is always relieved to put something like this behind him, although of course he still faces sentencing," said Ralsky's lawyer, Steven Fishman, a criminal defense solo practitioner in Detroit.

Fishman said that Ralsky's sentencing guidelines are 75 to 87 months. "But -- and this is a big but -- he has cooperated fully with the government, and as such, the government will recommend a guideline of 35 to 43 months. That's all in the plea agreement," Fishman said.

Fishman, meanwhile, remains skeptical about the harm his client actually caused and questioned the purpose of the law he was prosecuted under -- namely the CAN-SPAM Act.

"If you're asking me, 'Was it a wise piece of legislation?,' I would rank it right next to prohibition," Fishman said. "The law is the law. But I doubt that there are too many people who leave their homes petrified that their e-mail will be flooded with spam."

'Spam King' and Cohorts Plead Guilty to Fraud and Other Charges

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