RealTime IT News

Spammer Gets Slammer

A jury in Virginia recommended a nine-year prison term Wednesday afternoon for the first U.S. felony conviction of a spammer. Jeremy Jaynes of Raleigh, N.C., was convicted on three counts of using deceptive routing information in sending bulk commercial e-mail.

Under Virginia's anti-spam law, which went into effect in April 2003, spammers living outside of the state can be charged, even if none of the recipients live in Virginia, as long as the e-mail was routed through Virginia. More than half of the world's e-mail flows through Virginia, home of America Online and numerous federal agencies.

According to the evidence presented at the trial, Jaynes, 30, and his sister, Jessica DeGroot, grossed more than $24 million in various e-mail scams. The jury spared DeGroot, 28, jail time but fined her $7,500. A third defendant, Richard Rutkowski, 30, was acquitted.

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Horne will formally sentence Jaynes and DeGroot in February. Horne may reduce the sentence or follow the jury's recommendation, but he cannot increase the penalties.

At the time of Jaynes' arrest, the Spamhaus database listed Jaynes and Rutkowski as a "non-stop group of porn spammers" who use their high-speed T-1 Internet connections for sending "notorious 'horsey porn' spam."

Commonwealth of Virginia prosecutor Gene Fishel presented evidence that Jaynes also used e-mail to peddle a fraudulent home business, which in one month alone brought in 10,000 credit card orders for the $39.95 scheme.

The volume of the mailings triggered the criminal provisions of the Virginia law. The indictment, which covers a 30-day period in the summer of 2003, charged that Jaynes and his associates sent more than 10,000 pieces of spam a day and more than 100,000 for the period.

Jaynes and DeGroot are expected to appeal their convictions on the grounds that the Virginia law is an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.