Feds bring charges against alleged spam ring

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A federal grand jury in Detroit has handed down a 41-count indictment against 11 people for allegedly running an international spam ring.

Charge on January 3 were Alan M. Ralsky, 52, and his son-in-law Scott K. Bradley, 46, both of West Bloomfield, MI; Judy M. Devenow, 55, of Lansing, MI; John S. Bown, 47, of Poway, CA; James E. Fite, 34, of Whittier, CA; William C. Neil, 45, and Anki K. Neil, 36, both of Fresno, CA; Francis A. Tribble, of Los Angeles; James E. Bragg, 39, of Queen Creek, AZ; Peter Severa, whose age is unknown, of Russia and How Wai John Hui, 49, of Vancouver, Canada and Hong Kong.

“Cyber crime investigations are a top priority of the FBI, and we will continue to aggressively investigate those individuals who use and hide behind computers to commit various crimes,” said special agent in charge Andrew G. Arena, in a Federal Bureau of Investigation statement.

The defendants are being accused of executing botnet attacks that hijacked unsuspecting computers into sending illegal spam. The spam was allegedly sent as part of a “pump and dump” scheme aimed at inflating the stock price of certain Chinese companies.

Pump-and-dump scams are a common form of spam that encourages recipients to purchase stocks at low prices, which then inflates the price and allows the spammers to sell their shares for a profit. Investigators estimate that the Ralsky defendants earned approximately $3 million during the summer of 2005 as a result of their alleged illegal spamming activities.

“There is a business proposition there and there is an opportunity to make money in doing what they are doing,” said David Atlas, SVP of worldwide sales and marketing at Goodmail. “Much like in a legitimate business, the people involved are very well organized. This is truly a multinational group.”

According to Atlas, it is important for the US government to be involved, as fraudulent activity online can mess up legitimate commerce.

“It continues to be an arms race between the good guys and the bad guys, as we are in the Cold War era of e-mail marketing,” Atlas added.

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