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To the Mattresses: Godfather of Spam Gets 51 Months

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 01, 2009 9:02 AM

Spam can get you in real trouble. No, not the food poisoning kind, the wire fraud kind. After a three year investigation headed by the FBI and involving everyone from the SEC to the U.S. Postal service resulted in a guilty plea, the self-proclaimed "godfather of spam" and his spamming lieutenants were sentenced in federal court last Monday. The godfather, Alan M. Ralsky and the godfather's son-in-law, Scott Bradley, received 51 and 40 months respectively and were ordered to forfeit $250,000 each for conspiring to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and to violate federal CAN-SPAM legislation. Five years of supervised release will follow their stint in jail. Ralsky's other foot-soldiers will receive sentences ranging from one day to 51 months.   

The scheme Ralsky and the other defendants will be punished for extended far beyond that of those pesky pharmaceutical peddlers who clog your inbox. In violation of the CAN-SPAM (actual name) Act, the conspirators used spam emails to manipulate "thinly traded pink sheet stocks" for U.S. companies controlled by individuals offshore. Substantial profits were realized when recipients of spam traded in the stocks promoted via the spam.

The emails themselves contained what the DOJ describes as false and misleading information about the stocks. According to the original indictment, the defendants used sophisticated techniques to "maximize the amount of spam that evaded spam-blocking devices and tricked recipients into opening, and acting on, the advertisements in the spam." The conspirators followed up their stock profiteering with money laundering.

According to PCmag.com, the DOJ initially became aware of the operation after Microsoft, who had been monitoring the Ralsky operation since 2004, provided documented evidence of the "pump and dump" stock by spam scheme.

The DOJ also advises further sentences will be handed down to additional defendants on November 24th. Two more defendants named in the indictment still have cases pending in the Eastern District of Michigan. 

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