March 16, 2006
On the trail of a spammer turned loan shark
Almost a year ago, I received a juicy anonymous email tip regarding a piece I wrote about George Merwin (aka George Merwyn). As you may recall, Merwin is the Florida Viagra spammer who eluded Microsoft's lawyers for years, before getting nailed last year.
The tipster informed me that Merwin had branched out from pill spamming and now is into online loan sharking. The source claimed the lucrative business enabled Merwin to purchase "a $400,000 Ferrari, over 20 houses, including precontruction houses, a $150,000 Porsche, a 7 series BMW, a 60 foot boat, a multi million dollar home, a business jet, and the list goes on."
At the time, a Boca Raton paper had just published an article noting that Merwin lived in a $2.5M home at 777 Marine Drive, along with his current wife, whom neighbors identified as Rachel.
That house in the tony Blue Inlet subdivision, it turns out, is a key bit of corroboration that Merwin may indeed have moved into Internet credit services. But I never would have connected the dots if it weren't for Sean E. Brooks.
Recently, I blogged that Brooks (aka m3rk) was believed by spammers to have acted as a confidential informant for the U.S. Secret Service. Rumors swirled last month that Brooks snitched on the recently arrested "g00dfellas" spammers Adam Vitale and Todd Moeller.
While researching Brooks, I noticed that he once listed his address as 10939 Bal Harbor Drive in Boca Raton. A check of Palm Beach County property records shows that Debora (Brooks) Merwin and George (Anthony) Merwin were co-owners of the five bedroom home at that address until 2003.
Lots of possible Peyton Place scenarios seem possible here. (George married Debora, who had a son, Sean, by a previous marriage. George introduced Sean to the world of spam entrepreneurship. George and Debora were later divorced and George married Rachel. Etc.)
After mulling over these possibilities, I belatedly got around to checking the property records for the Merwin's palace at 777 Marine. Turns out the deed actually belongs to a Chantilly, Virginia company called Tres Hombres LLC, which bought the house in January 2005 from a Kathy (Merwin) Devivo.
Why would an alleged multimillionaire like Merwin be living in a house owned by someone else -- unless perhaps George is one of the hombres?
Tres Hombres LLC is run by a Lonnie D. Gaddy III, who is also chief operating officer for a financial services company in Virginia called Universal Debit & Credit (UDCC), with Carlos Gavidia as CEO/President.
Tres Hombres and UDCC share the same 3901 Centerview Drive address in Chantilly as several other firms -- all apparently connected to Gaddy. The firms include Quick Process, LLC and Prove-It Partners, LLC, which provide "no turndown" credit cards as well as short-term loans, and an apparently defunct merchant fraud protection service.
Ding ding ding.
I realize there's usually less than six degrees of separation between any two spammers. That's especially true when you're dealing with bulk emailers in Boca Raton, Florida, the spam capital of the USA.
But who would have expected such a close connection between a kid rumored to be a confidential informant in a spam case, and an elusive Internet drugstore king turned loan shark?
Posted by brian at March 16, 2006 4:32 PM