E-mail spammers face nine years in jail

A brother and sister who collected $24m (£13m) of credit card orders after sending junk e-mail to millions of Americans face nine years in jail in the first successful criminal prosecution of internet "spammers" in the US.

Jeremy Jaynes, 30, and Jessica DeGroot, 28, were recommended for nine-year sentences and fines of $7,500 (£4,000) by jurors who heard the case in Virginia.

The pair were convicted on three counts of sending e-mails with fraudulent and untraceable details about the sender - a common ploy of spammers but one which became an offence in the state just over a year ago. They targeted customers of America Online (AOL), which is based in Virginia.

A third defendant, Richard Rutkowski, 30, was acquitted.

All three defendants live in Raleigh, North Carolina. The final sentence will be decided next February by the judge, who could yet throw out the case when he rules on a motion filed earlier to dismiss the charges entirely.

The case hinged on the fact that the pair had obscured their involvement in the sending of the e-mail, a means commonly used by spammers to cover their tracks and prevent them from being kicked off the internet by providers.

Spam is a huge problem on the internet, comprising 10 out of 13 e-mails, according to the security company Postini. Furthermore, almost all of them offer fake, counterfeit or fraudulent goods or schemes. Some spammers have been prosecuted over the fraudulent content, but none before for the act.

Prosecutors also detailed the fraudulent ideas being peddled by the pair, including a scheme to earn $75 per hour at home doing refunds for Federal Express, a "penny stock picker" and an "internet history eraser" programme. Gene Fishel, for the prosecution, said: "This is a snake-oil salesman in a new format." Yet like snake oil in its day, the pair's e-mails found willing buyers. In one month alone, Jaynes received 10,000 credit card orders, each for $39.95 for the Federal Express scam. "This was just a case of fraud," said Mr Fishel.

Another prosecutor, Russell McGuire, said Jaynes amassed a net wealth of $24m (£13m) peddling the worthless products. "He's been successful ripping people off all these years," Mr McGuire said.

Prosecutors had sought the maximum 15-year sentence for Jaynes, and a lesser jail term for his sister, whom they said was less culpable.

David Oblon, representing Jaynes, called the punishment excessive as the prosecution was the first under the Virginia law. He said that as a North Carolina resident, Jaynes would have been unaware of the Virginia law. He called the jury's recommendation shocking. "Nine years is absolutely outrageous when you look at what we do to people convicted of crimes like robbery and rape."

Andy Morris, product director of the security company Clearswift, said: "Nine years in jail is absolutely right, though the fine is a joke - these people made millions. But for a spammer, if they risk nine years in jail that's going to make them think twice."

Thorgeir Einarsson, European managing director of the e-mail company Sendmail, said industry initiatives should mean that from next year companies such as AOL and Yahoo! would find it easier to stop spam reaching their customers, using authentication technology.

Ten Of The Biggest Spam Merchants

1 Alan Ralsky Since 1997 has sent hundreds of millions of e-mails every day, covering all sorts of offers. Reckoned to be the biggest spammer in the world. Has criminal convictions.

2 Damon DeCrescenzo Runs Docdrugs, offering online "medications" - which might or might not work.

3 Scott Richter Claims to have 80 million "approved" addresses inviting spam but cannot name where a single one would have signed up.

4 Chris Smith Used to run a "fake diplomas" scam, and has worked with other spammers. Uses computers in China to send out spam. In the business since 1999.

5 Eddy Marin Florida-based. Has convictions dating back to 1990 for cocaine dealing.

6 Thomas Cowles Offers to provide services for other spammers kicked off the internet by providers.

7 Eric Reinertsen Spammer since 1997. Offers various scams and investment fraud.

8 Jeremy Jaynes aka Gaven Stubberfield Convicted yesterday of spamming AOL users with "work at home" and "internet history erasers". Now faces nine years in jail.

9 Juan Garavaglia aka Super-Zonda Porn and "penis extension" spammer. Specialises in taking over other people's e-mail servers to send out junk.

10 Dave Shingler/Richard Burry Canada-based porn spammers offering live gay sex videos.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Life and Style
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn