On May 30, 2007 Robert Alan Soloway, one of the most persistent professional spammers, was arrested after being indicted by a federal grand jury for Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Fraud in Connection with Electronic Mail, Aggravated Identity Theft, and Money Laundering.

"Spam is a scourge of the Internet, and Robert Soloway is one of its most prolific practitioners," said Jeffrey C. Sullivan, United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington. "Our investigators dubbed him the 'Spam King' because he is responsible for millions of spam e-mails."

According to the indictment, between November 2003, and May 2007, SOLOWAY operated Newport Internet Marketing Corporation (NIM) which offered a "broadcast e-mail" software product and "broadcast e-mail" services. These products and services constituted "spam" i.e. bulk high volume commercial e-mail messages that contained false and forged headers and that were relayed using a network of proxy computers (also know as "botnets"). Soloway and NIM made a number of false and fraudulent claims about the products and services on their Web site. Among them was a claim that the e-mail addresses used for the product and services were "opt-in" e-mail addresses.

Soloway has been a long term nuisance on the Internet according to the Spamhaus Project which tracks the Internet's spam related issues. Soloway has been sending enormous amounts of spam for years, filling mailboxes and mail servers with unsolicited and unwanted junk e-mail. Because he spammed through hijacked computers and open proxies, he has repeatedly violated both the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act of 1984 and the CAN-SPAM law of 2003.

Soloway's violations of the U.S. CAN-SPAM law and various state anti-spam laws resulted in his being sued successfully by a number of plaintiffs, including Microsoft Corporation and Robert Braver, owner of an Oklahoma-based ISP. Both Microsoft and Braver received damage awards of millions of dollars. Soloway never paid these awards, claiming that he lived off of the proceeds of a family trust and was therefore "judgment-proof." In September 2005 in Oklahoma City, after Soloway had fired his lawyers and then failed to appear to represent himself in court, U.S. District Judge Ralph G. Thompson issued a permanent injunction against Soloway, forbidding him to continue sending spam that violated the CAN-SPAM act. Soloway ignored this injunction as well and continued to spam.

Soloway constantly "moved" his Web site, which was hosted on at least 50 different domains. In at least one instance Soloway used another person's credit card to pay for the domain name used to host the NIM Web site. The spammed messages used to advertise the NIM Web sites contained false and fraudulent header information, and were relayed using botnets to disguise the true originating IP addresses of the spam.

Many of the false headers contained forged e-mail addresses or domain names that belonged to other real people, businesses, or organizations, causing these other innocent parties to mistakenly be blamed for spam transmitted by Soloway. Innocent parties whose e-mail addresses and domain names were forged by Soloway sometimes had their legitimate addresses "blacklisted" as spam sources, as a result.

Soloway refused to remove e-mail addresses from his distribution lists, leaving some victims with no choice but to close their e-mail accounts or cancel established domain names to stop the spamming. Soloway and NIM have been the subject of hundreds of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau and the Washington State Attorney General's Office.

As part of the indictment, the government is seeking $772,998 as proceeds of Soloway's unlawful activities.

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer