Top Spammer Soloway arrested by Feds in Seattle

A man who ironically has the distinction of being one of the world’s most prolific spammers has been arrested and in fact U.S. authorities went on to say that computer users across the internet did observe a drop in the amount of junk e-mail following the arrest.

27 year-old Robert Alan Soloway, has been alleged of using networks of compromised “zombie” computers to send out millions of spam e-mails. Interestingly Soloway of Washington, is the founder of the so-called “Strategic Partnership Against Microsoft Illegal Spam”, or SPAMIS, but is himself said to be one of the Internet’s biggest spammers through his company, Newport Internet Marketing.

Tim Cranton, a Microsoft Corp. lawyer who is senior director of the company’s Worldwide Internet Safety Programs said, “He’s one of the top 10 spammers in the world.” Adding, “He’s a huge problem for our customers. This is a very good day.”

A federal grand jury last week returned a 35-count indictment against Soloway charging him with mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

On Wednesday afternoon, Soloway pleaded not guilty to all charges after a judge affirmed that even after four bank accounts seized by the government, the spammer was well sufficient to pay for his own lawyer.

Touted as the ‘Spam King,’ Soloway’s prosperity can be guessed through his living style and assets. Soloway has been living in a swanky apartment and drives an expensive Mercedes convertible, said prosecutor Kathryn Warma. Prosecutors are looking to have him forfeit $773,000 (euro576,005) they say he made from his business, Newport Internet Marketing Corp.

“Our investigators dubbed him the ‘Spam King’ because he is responsible for millions of spam emails,” said US Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jeffrey Sullivan.

A public defender who represented him for Wednesday’s hearing declined to comment.

Between November of 2003 and May of 2007 Soloway ’spammed’ tens of millions of email messages to promote websites at which his company, Newport Internet Marketing, sold products and services, according to prosecutors. The computers are termed as “zombies” because owners typically have no idea their machines have been infected.

Soloway used the networks of compromised computers to send out unsolicited bulk e-mails urging people to use his internet marketing company to advertise their products, authorities said.

People who clicked on a link in the e-mail were directed to his website. There, Soloway advertised his ability to send out as many as 20 million e-mail advertisements over 15 days for $495 (euro368), the indictment said.

The Spamhaus Project were delighted at his arrest.

“Soloway has been a long-term nuisance on the Internet – both in terms of the spam he sent, and the people he duped to use his spam service,” organizers wrote on Spamhaus.org.

However this is not the first time that Soloway is facing the legal wrath. In 2005, Microsoft won a $7 million civil judgment against him and the operator of a small Internet service provider in Oklahoma won a $10 million judgment. However, none of these incidents deterred Soloway’s intentions and he went on with his activities as before.

As per U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan, this case is the first in the country in which federal prosecutors have used identity theft statutes to indict a spammer for taking over someone else’s Internet domain name. If convicted as charged, Soloway will face a maximum sentence of more than 65 years in prison and a fine of $US250,000.

Prosecutors want to seize approximately $US773,000 they say Soloway made from his spamming-related activities.

Soloway remained in federal detention pending a hearing Monday.