“Cookie Stuffing" Internet Fraud Schemer Pleads Guilty
United States Attorney Kenyen R. Brown of the Southern District of Alabama announced that Jefferson Bruce McKittrick, a resident of Mobile, Alabama, entered a guilty plea today before United States District Court Judge Kristi DuBose to a one-count Information charging conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
McKittrickadmitted that he andothers operated a fraud scheme, commonly known as “cookie stuffing,” using affiliate marketing programs. He created “forced clicks” by unsuspecting web shoppers, which allowed McKittrick and members of the conspiracy to receive commissions for sales they did not generate, thus defrauding legitimate advertisers and the company paying for the advertising. This was done primarily through Linkshare Corporation and Google, to victimize Fareportal, Inc. During the course of the conspiracy McKittrick received approximately $1,830,000.
McKittrick was operating several online accounts listed in his own name as well as several other accounts listed in other names. The placement of the “cookies” generated “forced clicks” from users who visited their sites without the user having visited their affiliated sites with the ads. The tracking cookie was “forcefully” loaded onto the users’ computers from the site with the ad which then created a fraudulent, “forced click” credit to McKittrick and others.
During the time the conspiracy operated, McKittrick emailed a member of the conspiracy as follows:
"Please dont tell anyone though and keep this venture between us, to keep footprints away and keep this method on the down low ..lol . . . ALso, wanted to let you know..That I have been perfecting another method I am doing..and I am banking MAJOR money with it.. The problem is, I cant bank that much in 1 account, I have to spread the earnings,..So if you want in on it.. I If you have a linkshare account..I can do it with you, and I will put starting out only 3K a month in it, because I have to start it slow, but then the next month go up to 4K then 5k and so on..etc..etc.. . . . . The linkshare will 100% be the number I say, because I could LITERALLY make 25K a day if I wanted too, but ..lol. It would get banned."
The majority of the e-mail correspondence between McKittrick and members of the conspiracy involved discussions about opening different accounts and methods of exploiting those accounts to receive the highest levels of revenue, all while avoiding detection and being shut down.
“Internet fraud has a devastating impact on our consumers, as advertising expenses are added to the cost of items the consumer buys ” U.S. Attorney Brown said. “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to stop internet fraud.”
McKittrick faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Monies and two boats seized from McKittrick have been administratively forfeited.
The matter was investigated by the Mobile Field Office of the U.S. Secret Service and was prosecuted by AUSA Deborah Griffin.