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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, August 24, 2015

Sanford Wallace Pleads Guilty To Spamming Facebook Users And Disobeying A Court Order

Defendant, also known as “Spam King”, Admits To Illegally Accessing Approximately 500,000 Facebook Accounts And Sending More Than 27 Million Commercial Electronic Messages Through Facebook’s Servers

SAN JOSE – Sanford Wallace pleaded guilty in federal court in San Jose today to fraud and criminal contempt in connection with misusing electronic mail and related activity, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.

In connection with his guilty plea, Wallace, 47, of Las Vegas, Nevada, admitted that, from approximately November 2008 through March 2009, he developed and executed a plan to fraudulently obtain Facebook users’ login credentials in order to gain access to their accounts and send them unsolicited commercial electronic messages (spam).  Wallace further admitted that as a result of his plan he accessed approximately 500,000 Facebook accounts and sent more than 27 million commercial electronic messages through Facebook’s servers.

Wallace, also known as “Spam King,” acknowledged accessing Facebook’s computer network in order to send transmissions on three occasions: November 5, 2008, December 28, 2008 and February 17, 2009.  As part of his November 2008 activity, Wallace initiated transmission of a program that resulted in more than 125,000 messages being sent to Facebook users. His December 2008 activity resulted in transmission of nearly 300,000 messages to Facebook users and his February 2009 activity resulted in transmission of 125,000 spam messages being sent to Facebook users.

Furthermore, as part of his plea agreement, Wallace admitted he knowingly violated the order of United States District Judge Jeremy Fogel directing Wallace not to access Facebook’s computer network.  Specifically, during the proceedings in the civil case Facebook, Inc. v. Sanford Wallace, et al, No.C09-00798 JF, Judge Fogel specifically ordered Wallace not to access Facebook’s computer network on three occasions: March 2, 2009, March 24, 2009, and September 18, 2009.  Wallace admitted that that he nevertheless willfully and knowingly violated Judge Fogel’s order on April 17, 2009, by logging into his Facebook account while aboard a Virgin Airlines flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, to New York, New York.

Wallace was indicted by a grand jury on July 6, 2011.  He was charged with six counts of fraud and related activity in connection with electronic mail, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1037(a)(1) and (b)(2)(A); 18 U.S.C. §§ 1037(a)(2) and (b)(2)(C), and 18 U.S.C. §§ 1037(a)(4) and (b)(2)(B).  Wallace was also charged with three counts of intentional damage to a protected computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1030(a)(5)(A) and (c)(4)(B)(i), and two counts of criminal contempt, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 401(3).  Under the plea agreement, Wallace pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and related activity in connection with electronic mail and one count of criminal contempt.

Wallace is currently released on bond.  His sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 7, 2015, before the Honorable Edward J. Davila, U.S. District Court Judge, in San Jose. The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1037(a)(1) and (b)(2)(A) is three years imprisonment, and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution if appropriate. The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 401(3) is determined by the Court. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Susan Knight and Hanley Chew are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Elise Etter. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Updated August 25, 2015