A Weblog About Topics and Issues Discussed in the Book Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams

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July 28, 2005

New King of the Spam Kings

imedia logo Meet Michael Lindsay, head of California-based iMedia Networks. Lindsay just replaced Alan Ralsky atop the Spamhaus list of the world's top-10 spammers as of July 1, 2005.

IMedia ostensibly is in the streaming video and digital video production business. IMedia was reportedly hired to webcast the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

But apparently the company and its secretive operator decided serving as an ISP to spammers is a more lucrative business.

IMedia, which also has offices in Miami, is a "criminal" spam-hosting operation, according to Spamhaus. Spam messages for everything from mortgages to pills and porn have reportedly emanated from its network addresses.

It takes help to be earth's biggest spam operation. IMedia gets its connectivity from several U.S. Internet services providers, including MCI and SBC, as well as providers in China and Korea.

Although Ralsky has slipped to #2, he's apparently one of Lindsay's partners in spam, according to Spamhaus.

Posted by Brian at 12:20 AM

July 21, 2005

Where's Sanford?

plum-crazy-sm.jpg"Retired" spam king Sanford Wallace's legal troubles with the FTC over spyware seem to be deepening.

Last week, Wallace's attorney asked the U.S. District Court in New Hampshire for permission to withdraw as counsel for Wallace and his company, SmartBot.net. According to the lawyer, "counsel has had increasing difficulty communicating with the Wallace Defendants. Despite numerous attempts to communicate by mail, telephone and email, the undersigned counsel had not received any response from the Wallace Defendants for over a month."

When Wallace's lawyer finally caught up with him by phone on July 10 (presumably in Vegas), he apparently didn't have a very productive call. According to court documents, "counsel does not believe that he will be able to communicate any more effectively with his clients in the future."

Wallace is going to need a good lawyer. As part of a late-2004 preliminary injunction, he agreed to turn over lots of business documents to the FTC. But Wallace missed the May 18 deadline to comply. So, in June, the FTC asked the court to declare Wallace in contempt of court, and FTC lawyers also want the court to fine Wallace $500 per day until he complies with the order.

No decision yet from Joseph A. DiClerico Jr., the federal judge hearing the case.

Meanwhile, Plum Crazy, the night club Wallace ran for a while in Rochester, New Hampshire, after his retirement from spamming, is finished.

The joint on Rt. 11 still has a Plum Crazy sign out front, but there's a "coming soon" sign in the window that says the place will become Granite State Grill. Looks like the new owners have an addition underway on one end of the building. (Click the image above to see a larger photo.)

Posted by Brian at 12:54 AM | Comments (1)

July 20, 2005

SpamForum tries poaching SpecialHam

The SpecialHam.com spammer forum, which has a history of long periods of downtime, is again off the air.

For a couple days beginning last week, the site was re-directing to a page at NetworkSolutions.com that said the domain owner had failed to renew the registration when it came due on July 9. Now, the URL is dead.

The opportunistic operators of the competing SpamForum.biz board are apparently hoping to poach SpecialHam's members. Earlier this week, SpamForum's operators sent an email to members with the subject line, "lets make spamforum the number one marketing forum."

The email, sent via an IP address owned by ServerPronto in Florida, said, "If you have freind that were previous members of specialham why not invite them here so we can start making this forum active. Refer some fellow marketers to get the posting started."

I checked the SpecialHam.com whois record again today; the registration was updated on July 17 and is good through 2006. But the domain is still not resolving for me. Maybe it's because the China-based DNS servers for SpecialHam.com aren't responding.

Posted by Brian at 11:41 AM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2005

Spam King Scott Richter off ROKSO

Scott Richter, a self-proclaimed "high-volume email deployer" based in Colorado, is no longer a Spam King.

As a result of not receiving any spam emanating from Richter's OptInRealBig for "many months," Spamhaus has removed Richter from its Registry of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO).

As chronicled in Spam Kings chapter seven, Richter had been on the ROKSO list since June 2002.

Spamhaus director Steve Linford made the announcement today on the Nanae newsgroup, noting that Richter now operates a confirmed opt-in (COI) business -- which means Richter's email ads are only sent to individuals who "verifiably confirmed permission for the address to be included on the specific mailing list"

Posted by Brian at 11:17 PM | Comments (2)

"Citizen Joe" Jared prevails in court

A California Superior Court has ruled that the operator of a spam blacklist is not responsible for damage he caused to a company placed on the blacklist.

In a ruling entered July 13, Judge Geoffrey T. Glass ruled that Joe Jared, operator of the now-defunct OsiruSoft Open Relay Spam Stopper, was protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act when he blacklisted New York-based investigative services firm Pallorium in July 2003.

Pallorium's director Steven Rambam sued Jared in October 2003. Rambam claimed that Jared erroneously blacklisted his company and interfered with Pallorium's business. (This article has more background on the case.)

"Any good faith effort to restrict access to spam would be protected," under the CDA, ruled Judge Glass in his judgment in favor of Jared.

Judge Glass also declared that "Pallorium is a collateral casualty in the war on spam" and is not entitled to recover costs from Jared.

On the Nanae newsgroup, Jared said he may attempt to recover his court costs from Pallorium. (Jared has published information about the case at his site.)

Posted by Brian at 10:52 PM

July 8, 2005

Rizler out on bail

Joel Ott wrote in to say he spotted a new article about Christopher Smith ("Rizler") in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

The paper reports that Smith will be released today on $50,000 bail. He'll also be monitored electronically and needs permission to leave the state.

According to the Star-Trib, Judge Michael J. Davis delayed ruling on whether Smith's little escapade in the Domincan Republic violated the court order. Davis has set a hearing on the contempt of court charges for Aug. 25.

Meanwhile, the paper says, a federal grand jury is considering fraud and money-laundering charges against Smith, and an indictment may come within months.

Posted by Brian at 10:58 AM

July 7, 2005

Rizler facing six months for contempt

Sherburne County JailA U.S. District Court judge ordered today that Christopher Smith (aka Rizler) faces a maximum sanction of six months in prison if found guilty of violating a May court order that shut down Smith's Internet drugstore operation.

In a brief filed Tuesday, U.S. prosecutors recommended that Smith's "willful and deliberate violations of the Courts Orders warrant a six month incarceration for Smith."

The government's request for a six-month sanction is apparently driven in part by prosecutors' desire to avoid the need for a jury trial. (According to the brief, the constitutional right to a jury trial is triggered in any criminal contempt matter involving imprisonment of more than six months.)

Judge Michael J. Davis ordered that Smith's criminal contempt case will be tried by the court without a jury.

Many people have wondered why Rizler decided to return to the USA on June 30 -- a move that got him arrested by the FBI upon his arrival at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and taken to the Sherburne County jail in Elk River, MN.

According to the feds' 7/5/05 brief, Smith apparently learned of the arrest warrant "possibly through Internet postings," and was returning to Minnesota to appear at the contempt hearing.

But Smith had no intention of surrendering to the authorities. In fact, the government claims that Smith took steps to avoid being arrested. E.g., he bought a ticket from the Dominican Republic that terminated in Miami, and then purchased a last-minute ticket from Miami to Minneapolis.

When Smith stepped off the plane in Minnesota, "his reaction to the presence of federal agents was one of surprise," according to the government brief.

Interesting homeland security note: The FBI originally stated that Smith used a fake passport to get out of the country. The government now acknowledges that "Smith did not need a passport to travel to the Dominican Republic, and was traveling under name of Chris Smith."

Posted by Brian at 12:06 AM | Comments (6)

July 6, 2005

Spam Kings ad at SpecialHam.com

If you visit the SpecialHam.com spammer forum, you may have recently noticed a banner ad for Spam Kings under the "sponsors" section. (If your Internet provider has blacklisted the site, here's a screen grab.)

For the record, neither I or my publisher had anything to do with it.

As you may recall, I made some noise at the start of the year about the ads that mysteriously appeared at the site for a book called Spam Cartel.

I wonder if the new SK ad is an attempt by someone at SpecialHam to tweak me for doing that.

The operators of SpecialHam.com are anonymous, so I asked a senior SpecialHam member who goes by the nickname Dollar if he knew anything about why the ad was created. He told me over AIM that SpecialHam is a "neutral board" and that "We love anti's and anti's love us."

That wasn't real helpful.

Now, I believe that spammers ought to learn about the careers of some of their high-profile colleagues. And they owe it to themselves to know the history of anti-spam efforts like Spamhaus and Spews, as well as the mindset of anti-spammers like Steve Linford and Shiksaa.

But no way am I going to sponsor SpecialHam to get that message out.

So, SpecialHam, much as I admire your banner-graphic skills, could you please remove that Spam Kings ad from your site?

Posted by Brian at 11:10 AM | Comments (2)

July 1, 2005

Rizler detained

A commenter on this entry tipped me off that spammer Christopher William Smith has been arrested. I don't know the details, but court records confirm that Smith had a detention hearing on Thursday. So looks like Rizler will be able to attend the July 6 hearing on the criminal contempt charges filed against him by the U.S.

Posted by Brian at 9:27 AM | Comments (5)

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