SEATTLE SPAMMER INDICTED FOR MAIL AND WIRE FRAUD, AGGRAVATED IDENTITY THEFT AND MONEY LAUNDERING
Man Sold Spamming Software and Spamming Services Impacting Millions of Computers
ROBERT ALAN SOLOWAY, 27, the owner of NEWPORT INTERNET MARKETING CORPORATION of Seattle, Washington was arrested today after being indicted by a federal grand jury for Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Fraud in Connection with Electronic Mail, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Money Laundering. SOLOWAY will make his initial appearance on the indictment in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 today.
“Spam is a scourge of the Internet, and Robert Soloway is one of its most prolific practitioners,” said Jeffrey C. Sullivan, United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington. “Our investigators dubbed him the “Spam King” because he is responsible for millions of spam emails.”
According to the indictment, between November 2003, and May 2007, SOLOWAY operated NEWPORT INTERNET MARKETING CORPORATION (NIM) which offered a “broadcast email” software product and “broadcast email” services. These products and services constituted “spam” i.e. bulk high volume commercial email messages that contained false and forged headers and that were relayed using a network of proxy computers (also know as “botnets”). SOLOWAY and NIM made a number of false and fraudulent claims about the products and services on their website. Among them was a claim that the e-mail addresses used for the product and services were “opt-in” email addresses. The website promised a satisfaction guarantee with a full refund to customers who purchased the broadcast email product. However, customers who later complained about the goods and services they had purchased or who asked for refunds were threatened with additional financial charges and referral to a collection agency.
As part of the scheme, SOLOWAY spammed tens of millions of email messages to advertise the NIM websites from which he sold his product and services. Soloway constantly “moved” this website, which was hosted on at least 50 different domains. In at least one instance SOLOWAY used another person’s credit card to pay for the domain name used to host the NIM website. Since 2006, SOLOWAY registered the domain names through Chinese Internet Service Providers in an apparent effort to hide the true ownership of the domain names used to host the NIM website. The spammed messages used to advertise the NIM websites contained false and fraudulent header information, and were relayed using networks of proxy computers (“botnets”) to disguise the true originating IP addresses of the spam. Many of the false headers contained forged e-mail addresses or domain names that belonged to other real people, businesses, or organizations, causing these other innocent parties to mistakenly be blamed for spam transmitted by Soloway. Innocent parties whose email addresses and domain names were forged by SOLOWAY sometimes had their legitimate addresses “blacklisted” as spam sources, as a result. SOLOWAY refused to remove email addresses from his distribution lists, leaving some victims with no choice but to close their email accounts or cancel established domain names to stop the spamming. SOLOWAY and NIM have been the subject of hundreds of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
“This case demonstrates that even in this age of electronic mail, spam and botnets the US Mail and commercial carriers are still used, and at times misused, to convey items of value. It continues to be the job of US Postal Inspectors to protect the Postal Service, our customers, and the American public from such abuses. These multi-faceted fraud schemes are best worked by a task force of agencies and we thank our federal partners, the FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigations Division, the FTC and the US Attorney’s Office for their outstanding work on this case,” said Postal Inspection Service Acting Inspector in Charge R.C. Till.
As part of the indictment, the government is seeking $772,998 as proceeds of SOLOWAY’s unlawful activities.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud and Money Laundering are all punishable by up to twenty years in prison and three years of supervised release. Fraud in Connection with Electronic Mail is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. SOLOWAY is charged with five counts of Aggravated Identity Theft for using the electronic identification of another person (i.e. email address) in connection with fraud of electronic mail. If convicted, the Aggravated Identity Theft statute mandates a two year sentence to be served consecutive to any prison term for the underlying offense.
The case was investigated by the FBI, US Postal Inspection Service and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) in conjunction with the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (CHIP) Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Warma.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.