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Spam King Busted by Secret Service 247

An anonymous reader writes "Adam Vitale, aka Batch1 aka Baxter, 25, of Boynton Beach, FL, and his partner Todd Moeller, aka M3rk, of New Jersey, are accused of sending nearly 50,000 pieces of spam e-mail to more than 1.2 million AOL subscribers. US Secret Service agents used a confidential informant to hire Moeller and Vitale to deliver spam, which advertised a computer security product."
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Spam King Busted by Secret Service

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  • Mugshot (Score:5, Informative)

    by XorNand ( 517466 ) * on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @10:31AM (#14816771)
    The poor (rich?) sap's booking photo [pbso.org], complete with ::gulp:: his address. Too bad spammers aren't required to disclose their email address on arrest.
  • I wonder why illegal spamming comes under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service and not the FBI. This is not a treasury matter after all.
    • Re:Secret Service? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @10:35AM (#14816822)

      Check here [treas.gov] to see all the duties of the Secret Service....among them, you will find:

      • Investigating credit and debit card fraud, computer fraud, and electronic fund transfer fraud
  • Oohhhh! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig.hogger@gm a i l.com> on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @10:33AM (#14816796) Journal
    It must have really felt good for the agents to hear the sound of a spammer squealing!!!

    It is about time that the authorities are starting to take a harder look at those thieves of computer ressources. I'm not only talking about the criminal botnet operators, but the "mainsleaze" spam senders.

    But the true way of fighting spam is not nuking spammers per se, but rather nuking ISPs who cater to spammers, in any way, be it domain registrations, DNS service and plain web-hosting, both legit and botnets. This will make them think twice in not having a good, hard look at their abuses@* mailboxen.

    • How are US authorities going to "nuke" Chinese and Brazilian ISPs? Or were you thinking of using real nukes?
    • I'd prefer to see them go after the businesses that hire them. Paying someone to break the law is also a crime. Cut off their cash flow. It is a lot harder to hide a business with a product and a credit card contract vs a box connected to the net.
    • So, let us say I am a spammer. And I pay an ISP company to host my mail, etc. And then I pay another company for DNS. Then I start mass-mailing - how is the ISP supposed to know I am doing illegal spam? How do they know my lists are not legitimate spam lists? They really can't. You hit the spammers - they are the only ones who know for sure if what they are doing is legal or not legal.
      • Re:Oohhhh! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig.hogger@gm a i l.com> on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @11:31AM (#14817372) Journal
        So, let us say I am a spammer. And I pay an ISP company to host my mail, etc. And then I pay another company for DNS. Then I start mass-mailing - how is the ISP supposed to know I am doing illegal spam? How do they know my lists are not legitimate spam lists? They really can't. You hit the spammers - they are the only ones who know for sure if what they are doing is legal or not legal.
        The ISP knows because he is getting zillions of spam complaints by people you are sending your shit to.

        There is no such thing as a legitimate "spam list". Spam lists are **ALWAYS** full of unwitting recipients. Legitimate mailing-lists, on the other hand, only have addresses of people who have specifically requested to be included in **YOUR** (and YOURS alone - there is no such thing as a "legitimate" purchased list, because the people there HAVE NOT requested to be on it) mailing list.

        They know that your lists are legitimate mailing lists because every single person on them have requested to be on them, and for the eventual complaint that seeps through, you can PROVE that the person has requested to be on it, because you have DUTIFULLY kept the actual request ON FILE.

        • "Legitimate mailing-lists, on the other hand, only have addresses of people who have specifically requested to be included in **YOUR** (and YOURS alone - there is no such thing as a "legitimate" purchased list, because the people there HAVE NOT requested to be on it) mailing list."

          Even used MSDN-AA? It and many other services want an email address to sign up, and then will start with the box "Send me a buncha stuff in email" checked, which is pretty abhorrent.

          Often times if you accidently didn't decheck a
          • Re:Not always. (Score:3, Informative)

            by Pig Hogger ( 10379 )

            Even used MSDN-AA? It and many other services want an email address to sign up, and then will start with the box "Send me a buncha stuff in email" checked, which is pretty abhorrent.

            Caveat emptor. This is what disposable e-mails are for...

            Google is perfect, because the addresses are "plussed [claws-and-paws.com]", so you can add a special code ("pig.hogger+bullshit@gmail.com") to tag where you give your e-mail to, and if you see different junk coming in, you know very well who's the sleazy fucker who sold your e-mail. At th

  • Always happy to hear about a spammer being busted, but why does this land in the Secret Service's turf?
    • Always happy to hear about a spammer being busted, but why does this land in the Secret Service's turf?

      My god, how many people are gonna ask that? Look, the Secret Service isn't just the president's bodyguard. They are the law enforcement arm of the US Treasury Department. Remember Elliot Ness, of "The Untouchables" fame? Treasury agent. The Secret Service investigates a lot of things, including credit card fraud and computer crimes.

      • When I clicked reply, no one had asked. When I clicked submit, I was the third or fourth one (don't remember now). I'm actually surprised I haven't been hit with a redundant mod yet.

        To your point though, if you had asked me yesterday, I would have assumed it was FBI territory.
  • Services rendered (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashnutt ( 807047 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @10:35AM (#14816820) Journal
    US Secret Service agents used a confidential informant to hire Moeller

    I guess it is good that the Secret Service doesn't have to worry about entrapment rules. It's great to hear that spam is getting wiped out but at what cost - the government is now hiring people to do things that will get them dragged into court? Maybe if everyone (including you, everyone you know and the government) stopped hiring/buying the service then maybe I might receive a little less spam and that is the only way it will really cease being a problem.
    • by NDPTAL85 ( 260093 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @10:39AM (#14816862)
      Entrapment means causing someone to do something they would not normally do in order to get them to break the law. This "service" that the spammers were offering was their daily business. It was their regular mode of operation. All the Secret Service did was send an informant in undercover to pose as a customer. Thus there was no entrapment, this is basic policework.
      • I dunno about that. It says that they paid an up front fee of 6500$ so that the *spammers* could buy the equipment necessary to spam. One would think if they did this for a living they'd already have plenty of equipment or botnets in place.

        By no means am I trying to say it's ok to spam, just trying to point out perhaps we shouldn't drop the guillotine before we know both sides of the story.
      • From TFA Moeller charged the informant $6,500 so that he and Vitale could buy the computer equipment to send the junk mail, court documents show.

        Hmm dosn't sound like his regular mode of operation...
      • "All the Secret Service did was send an informant in undercover to pose as a customer."

        It sounds like they did more than just posing as customers. Regardless, the moment they made an offer of cash for criminal services, they were entrapping -- inciting crime, creating criminals.

        "This 'service' that the spammers were offering was their daily business. It was their regular mode of operation."

        If that was a certainty, there would have been enough evidence to convict them already. I hate spam as much as the next
        • If the spammers offered a service, asked for money for it, and the SS then gave it to them, there's no entrapment. In fact, they'd need to complete the transaction to prove something illegal was going on. It's not illegal to talk about selling drugs, or spamming or whatever, it's illegal to actually sell those things. If you've ever watched one of those undercover cop shows, you'll notice they always actually make a buy before arresting a suspect. Otherwise, nothing illegal has happened.

          You'll also notice t
          • If you've ever watched one of those undercover cop shows, you'll notice they always actually make a buy before arresting a suspect. Otherwise, nothing illegal has happened.
            Well they could get them for posession (If they saw the drugs or whatever) but dealing is a much more serious crime so they usually want to get them for that.
        • If that was a certainty, there would have been enough evidence to convict them already. I hate spam as much as the next guy, but entrapment stinks. You can turn anyone into a criminal if you offer the right price.

          Doubtful. While most people may not be against "tagging" a building with a streak of paint if paid a million dollars, there are lots of crimes that are taken down this way that regular people wouldn't think of doing. Go to a person on the street and tell them you'll pay them a million dollars if th
          • "Go to a person on the street and tell them you'll pay them a million dollars if they spam 500,000 people. Most would give you an odd glare and walk away."

            Most people also wouldnt believe that you actually intend to pay them to do such a thing (they would assume its some type of practical joke). Show them the cash, and make a downpayment and I have a feeling that youll get quite a few more takers.
      • Over here it's entrapment if the police causes somebody to commit a crime, regardless of wether it would be "normal" for the person.

        Actually thinking about it, "normal" sounds like an extremely ambigious, dubious and plain out dangerous word to use here. Who defines normality? If the person did it, it was obviously normal for him, right?

    • Imagine if local police tried this!

      Problem: Sex offender released from prison
      Step 1: Distribute local elementary school address list
      Step 2: ???
      Step 3: Profit! (well, send him back to jail at least)
    • ... the government is now hiring people to do things that will get them dragged into court?

      What, like that's some kind of new development? Do you not read the news?

    • Maybe if everyone stopped hiring/buying the service then maybe I might receive a little less spam

      People/companies use spam because it is cheap and it works. It is cheap because nobody owns the Internet. It works because people are stupid. Thus, the only way to eliminate spam is to re-architect the Internet in such a way as to make it cost-prohibitive to transmit large amounts of data, or prevent stupid people from buying products advertised by spam.

      Wouldn't it be nice to outlaw stupid people? Imagine th
      • "Wouldn't it be nice to outlaw stupid people?"

        Easy, send them a spam for V1gr@ that contains a virus that prevents them from connecting to the internet again. If they click on the link in the letter then Uncle Darwin solves your problem!
  • Unfortunately another will just take their place. We need technology to stop Spam. Human nature being what it is will continue where ever there is a buck to be made.
    • Unfortunately another will just take their place. We need technology to stop Spam.

      I disagree. Technology will help with spam, but a societal fix is important too. If you were thinking of spamming, the fact that a fellow spammer has just been arrested by the Secret Service might change your mind.

      Yeah, I know, it'll just get moved overseas. Until people start to crack down on it there, too. I think the problem is mostly caused by the fact that there's been virtually no enforcement against spam. Now there is,
    • We need technology to stop Spam. Human nature being what it is will continue where ever there is a buck to be made.
      Using technology to solve a social problem seldom works.
  • So did each person get 0.333~ spam then? How exactly does that work...

    AOL subscriber #1: Buy our very high
    AOL subscriber #2: quality and cheap
    AOL subscriber #2: viagra product! http:
    AOL subscriber #4: //wwww.viagra-products
    AOL subscriber #5: .com

    Damn those evil geniuses!
  • I guess he wasn't making a ton of money off of spamming, because I live only a few miles from that location.... That isn't a very nice neighborhood. Definitely not something my wife would want to move to.

    I thought spammers were supposed to be living the lush life on our nickel.
    • I guess he wasn't making a ton of money off of spamming, because I live only a few miles from that location.... That isn't a very nice neighborhood. Definitely not something my wife would want to move to.
      Congratulations: you have run accross your first chickenboner [google.com]!!!
  • Doesn't make sense. Sending 50K emails I get. 1.2M subscribers I get, but how can you send 50K emails to 1.2M accounts? 50K to each? 50K split between them? That's like 0.042 emails each.
  • by slackaddict ( 950042 ) <rmorganNO@SPAMopenaddict.com> on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @10:39AM (#14816861) Homepage Journal
    ... The Secret Service also investigates violations of laws relating to counterfeiting of obligations and securities of the United States; financial crimes that include, but are not limited to, access device fraud, financial institution fraud, identity theft, computer fraud; and computer-based attacks on our nation's financial, banking, and telecommunications infrastructure.

    and also

    Since 1984, our investigative responsibilities have expanded to include crimes that involve financial institution fraud, computer and telecommunications fraud, false identification documents, access device fraud, advance fee fraud, electronic funds transfers, and money laundering as it relates to our core violations.

    These guys are spammers. If they've advertised p3nis enlargement pills, they've committed fraud and, according to the Secret Service they have jurisdiction over this area. Disclaimer: IANAL

    Read for yourself: http://www.ustreas.gov/usss/mission.shtml [ustreas.gov]

  • Article is on Spam Daily News, sources listed are: TheSpamDiaries.blogspot.com; Sun Sentinel; ROKSO.

    Sounds like total bull to me, Why wasn't this picked up by any real news sources? And since when does the secret service care about spam?
  • So if you send 500,000 E-mails to 1,200,000 poor soules living in AOhell, would that mean that each one got 0.0417 E-mails from these 2 people?
  • I can't believe anyone gets any spam anymore. I actually feel sort of nostalgic for all of the strange offers.

    What's next? Secret Service going to bust up a bunch of bolshevics?

    Actually they probably should, all of the good spam came from communist countries anyways who were probably just sending it to thumb their nose at our freedom of speech and our weight and erectile problems.

    Lousy communists!
  • How do you send 50,000 spam emails to 1.2 million people? Or were they sending 50,000 mail messages to EACH person?
    • 50,000 different messages & variations sent to 1.2 million people. Perhaps they could actually have gotten thousands of different messages each, meaning possibly billions of individual spams?
  • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Tuesday February 28, 2006 @10:51AM (#14816962)
    our new hero in a jail cell with a bunch of cell mates who have all enlarged their penis, ordered Viagra, and are looking for a new relationship.
    • Ironically, if they delivered working goods as advertised, then it wouldn't be fraud and the Secret Service wouldn't have been involved. The guy's new roommates only received fake pills - his best hope is that they really don't work at all.
  • I want to see Scott Richter in the headline. I've never heard of these other two people. Were they small-time spammers or would-be spammers that were essentially entrapped into the game? They were given more than $6,000 initially to purchase equipment. This suggests to me that perhaps these guys weren't already equiped to do the deed. What if a cop sold a gun to a potential bank robber and then later arrested the same guy for armed robbery?

    I have to wonder how shaky the case here might be.
  • Anyone else understand how they sent 50,000 emails to 1,200,000 people?

    Each person got 0.0416 emails?

    Or did they mean that 50,000 emails were sent to each of the 1,200,000 people? That'd be 60,000,000,000 emails total...

    Am I just missing something here or is there some stupidity going on with these numbers.... Artifically making the numbers seem big by including the number of AOL subscribers?
    • Why is this so hard to understand? AOL has 1.2 million subscribers, of which 50,000 received this spam.
      • Actually, I would say that while not all 50,000 spam messages each went to 1.2 million AOL subscribers, that some portion of those 50,000 spams went to some portion of those 1.2 million AOL subscribers. Think of it this way - say you have three spam messages (analogous to the 50,000 spams), and 100 email addresses (analogous to the 1.2 mil AOL subs). Those 100 addresses are your "target market". Those three messages may be a message about viagra, a message about porn, and a message on free energy (or someth
  • In spam kings stories like these, AOL always seems to come up as the spammers favourite target.
    AOL really needs to get serious about their spam problem.
    • As they hemmorage subscribers , I think they are looking to make more money through litigation than through dial-up. In the future, AOL will just be a bank of honeypot accounts used to soak up all of the SPAM and turn that spam into profit!

      AOL's New Business Plan

      1. Sign up for free iPod
      2. Receive Spam
      3. Litigate!!!
      4. $$$$$


      it's that easy
    • The spammers go where the money is. The average AOL user is less sophisticated and more likely to fall for scams. AOL (or any ISP) could spend more blocking spam, but there will always be a way around it, and if that's where the money is, the spammers will continue to chip away at the AOL filters.
  • This guy's crime was just sending a billion e-mails? Why, that's hardly illegal at all [wikipedia.org]. There must be something else going on here, like he kicked a senator's dog or something, because nothing's happened to any of the other [spamhaus.org] spammers [spamhaus.org] for whom there is plenty of evidence [spamhaus.org] to put them away - at least, if the government had any real interest [house.gov] in doing so.
  • I bet they will think about making spammer mugshots public after this one. Hell it wouldn't surprise me if they think the slashdotting they are getting is an attack in response to his arrest. Or maybe their IT guys are choking back laughter as they try to explain to their bosses why the system has slowed to a crawl.
  • ..I'm all for busting people who break the law. I'm also all for more intelligent spam laws. Unfortunately, more intelligent isn't necessarily the same as simply more or strong laws.

    Given that the better solution is a secured way of transferring mail (and no, lets not argue the merits of each proposed solution here) still seems to be some ways off from widespread use, we're stuck with the laws.

    I ask my fellow geeks here, if we wouldn't be up in arms against nearly any other bust in the realm of what peopl

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