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January 18, 2006

Spam prosecution

Most of us have reactions to spammers that range all the way from revulsion to sheer, unadulterated hatred. In the formulation of my sister's friend, you hate someone if, upon seeing that person lying dead in the street, you decide to step on the body. Perhaps a few of the big spammers qualify for that treatment.

Federal prosecutors in Detroit have announced that, rather than stepping on a spammer's body, they've obtained a guilty plea from him on charges under the new federal anti-spam statute.

JAN. 17 10:14 P.M. ET The main defendant in the nation's first prosecution under a 2004 federal anti-spam law pleaded guilty Tuesday to three felony charges, federal prosecutors said.

Daniel J. Lin, 30, of West Bloomfield Township faces nearly five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit said.

Two of the counts are fraud charges involving millions of unsolicited spam e-mails sent to computer users. The other is possession of a firearm by a felon, for guns discovered when authorities raided Lin's suburban Detroit home.

He is scheduled to be sentenced May 16 in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor.
But aspects of the article are somewhat troubling.

Court papers described a complex web of corporate identities, bank accounts and electronic storefronts used to send hundreds of thousands of e-mail sales pitches for fraudulent weight-loss and erectile dysfunction products.
They're fraudulent?

The Federal Trade Commission said angry consumers forwarded to authorities more than 490,000 e-mails from the operation from January 2004 to April 2004 -- more than from any other spam outfit worldwide during the same period.
The FTC got almost half a million spam e-mails from consumers? Doesn't the agency have filtering software?

Court records show that charges against the other defendants, James J. Lin, Chris Chung and Mark M. Sadek, have been dismissed.
Three out of four got away? Well, maybe the theory behind spam will apply. You just need to hook one out of a million.