RealTime IT News

Feds Bust Spam Porn Operation

A Phoenix federal grand injury has indicted three individuals for multiple violations of the CAN SPAM Act including sending unsolicited obscene materials, money laundering and criminal conspiracy.

A fourth defendant in the alleged conspiracy has already pleaded guilty and marks the first CAN SPAM conviction related to the transmission of obscene e-mail.

According to the Department of Justice (DoJ) indictments, the obscene spam was sent in a manner designed to impair the ability of recipients, Internet service providers and law enforcement agencies to identify, locate, or respond to the senders.

The deception was accomplished in a number of ways, including sending the spam from Internet Protocol addresses registered in the Netherlands and domain names registered in Mauritius, installing the computers sending the e-mails in the Netherlands and remotely controlling those computers from the United States.

The nine-count indictment returned Thursday names Jennifer R. Clason, 32, formerly of Tempe, Ariz.; Jeffrey A. Kilbride, 39, of Venice, Calif.; and James R. Schaffer, 39, of Paradise Valley, Ariz. The indictment charges all three defendants with two counts of fraud and related activity in connection with e-mail under the CAN-SPAM Act and one count of criminal conspiracy.

In additional to criminal conspiracy, the indictment charges Kilbride and Schaffer with two counts of interstate transportation of obscene material using an interactive computer service, two counts of interstate transportation of obscene material for the purpose of sale or distribution and one count of money laundering.

Schaffer is also charged with one count of operating three pornographic Web sites without including required statements describing the location of identification and other records for the performers portrayed in the Websites, as is required by federal law.

If convicted, Kilbride and Schaffer each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the money laundering charge, and five years in prison on the obscenity charges. All three defendants also face a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each of the spamming and criminal conspiracy charges.

Schaffer also faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison on the improper pornographic record keeping charge. The government is also seeking the forfeiture of proceeds allegedly obtained during the commission of these offenses.

According to the DoJ, the spam advertised pornographic Web sites in order to earn commissions for directing traffic to the sites. The indictments claim graphic pornographic images were embedded in each of the defendants' e-mails.

Four counts of the indictment charge felony obscenity offenses for such transmission of hard-core pornographic images of adults engaged in explicit sexual conduct, which meet the Supreme Court's test for adult obscenity.

The indictments claim America Online received more than 600,000 complaints between Jan. 30, 2004, and June 9, 2004, from its users regarding e-mails that had allegedly been sent by the defendants' spamming operation.

The DoJ estimates that the actual number of its users who received these unsolicited e-mails may number in the tens of millions. A list maintained by Spamhaus, an international nonprofit organization that collects information and evidence on the worst spammers worldwide, reports that the defendants' spamming operation is one of the 200 largest in the world.

A fourth individual, Andrew Ellifson, 31, of Scottsdale, Ariz., pleaded guilty in February to one spamming count under the CAN-SPAM Act and one count of criminal conspiracy.

In a plea agreement unsealed Thursday, Ellifson also agreed to forfeit money obtained in the commission of the crimes. According to the indictment, Ellifson assisted in the creation, operation and management of the computer network used to transmit the spam sent by the operation.

Ellifson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for each of the spamming and criminal conspiracy offenses. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 26.