Top Spammer Arrested on 35 Counts

A man known as one of the world’s worst criminal spammers has been arrested and indicted on 35 counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, identity theft and other charges.

On Wednesday, Robert Alan Soloway was brought before a Grand Jury in Seattle following a joint investigation by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service Department of Criminal Investigations, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, according to Spamhaus, an international spam watchdog group.

Soloway has been listed on Spamhaus’s Block List since 2001, and was listed on Spamhaus’s Register of Known Spam Operations as one of “worst of the worst” criminal spammers in 2003.

Soloway, through his company Newport Internet Marketing Corp., is accused of marketing his services as legitimate ‘opt-in’ e-mail services and then failing to provide any customer support or refunds. He’s also accused of hijacking computers and using them as “zombies” to send spam messages, violating both the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act of 1984 and CAN-SPAM.

This is not Soloway’s first appearance in court to face spam violation charges. Microsoft won a $7 million civil judgment against him in 2005 and Robert Braver, owner of an Oklahoma-based ISP, won a $10 million judgment, neither of which Soloway paid.

Although the Federal Authorities are hailing the arrest as a blow against spam which will significantly reduce its appearance in inboxes, both legal and advertising analysts agree that while his arrest should be lauded, it’s unlikely to stem the tide of spam anytime soon.

“Soloway’s arrest shows that fighting spam involves technology, consumer education and underscores the importance of legislation and law enforcement,” said David Daniels, vice president and research director for JupiterResearch. “However the impact on advertisers and consumers is that e-mail will continue to flood inboxes, and while this is symbolic and a necessary part of the campaign against spam, it doesn’t mean that legitimate advertisers will be able to relax their efforts to get the consumer’s attention.”

Soloway’s arrest is also unlikely to dissuade other criminal spammers or force them underground, agreed Eric Goldman, a law professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law.

“It assumes that we can understand the psyche of the spammer and the threats and payoffs that will influence behavior,” said Goldman. “We can’t be confident that any legitimate bust will dissuade spammers.”

Soloway pleaded not guilty to all charges, but is considered a flight risk and remains in federal custody.

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