Spammers in the slammer

4 Nov 2004

Virginia State in the US has successfully convicted two people in the country’s first felony prosecution for sending spam. Brother and sister team Jeremy Jaynes and Jessica DeGroot were found guilty yesterday of sending junk email to millions of AOL customers.

Prosecutors in the case said that 30-year-old Jaynes, from North Carolina and his 28-year-old sister used bulk email to market fake products such as a “FedEx refund processor” for US$39.95. This product was supposedly capable of earning people working from home US$75 an hour. In a single month, orders for the product came to almost US$400k, according to reports. Jaynes, who is also known by the alias Gaven Stubberfield, is said to have built up a fortune of US$24m selling products via spam.

The jury recommended that Jaynes receive a jail sentence of nine years. Prosecutors were able to prove that DeGroot had helped the spamming operation by using her credit card and the jury recommended that she be fined US$7,500.

Under Virginia State law, there are limits to the number of emails that marketers can send in a given period of time and senders are not permitted to use fake email addresses – two provisions that most types of spam mail usually contravene. The case was heard in Virginia because the emails had been sent through servers located there.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, said: “Spammers make the lives of regular internet users and businesses a misery by clogging up email boxes with junk mail. The reason why spammers do it is because of the huge profits that they can make peddling their products. The criminal conviction of Jeremy Jaynes sends out a strong message to other spammers that their activities are not going to be tolerated.”

According to the US watchdog group The Spamhaus Project, the US was the biggest source of spam mail during October. As Stubberfield, Jaynes had been listed on Spamhaus’ register of known spam operations, a database of hardline spammers that are believed to be responsible for close to 90pc of spam on the internet.

Formal sentencing of Jaynes and DeGroot is scheduled for February 2005.

By Gordon Smith