Spam king to spend almost four years behind bars
Dubbed the "Spam King", Robert Alan Soloway was sentenced to three years and eleven months of imprisonment for his violation of US anti-spam legislation – the CAN SPAM Act – by a court in Seattle. The 28-year old pleaded guilty in March, avoiding a jury trial. While the prosecution demanded nine years, the maximum sentence could have been 26 years.
Soloway pleaded guilty to three of the 40 charges against him. The spammer was accused of violating CAN SPAM, as well as identity fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. Because he pleaded guilty to single cases of email fraud, mail fraud and tax evasion, the prosecution dropped the remaining charges. Judge Marsha Pechman took a long time before announcing her verdict: this is one of the first sentences to be passed after the anti-spam law came into effect in 2004.
Soloway was arrested in spring 2007. His company Newport Internet Marketing Corporation (NIM) is said to have been responsible for sending millions of emails since November 2003 containing unsolicited advertising, using systems like botnets. He is also said to have offered a program called "Dark Mailer" for mass mailings and similar services. He violated the CAN SPAM Act by manipulating the sender information in the email header to make the recipient of the email also appear as the sender.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports that the Solway appeared in court wearing a conservative suit and showing remorse. To the question of why he continued his activities, despite a cease-and-desist order by another judge, he replied "I was used to living a certain lifestyle" – "I tried to live beyond my means. It was a new law. I thought I would find a loophole." In 2005 Soloway is said to have accumulated a total of $120,000 through his spamming activities. The "Spam King" lived in a suitably expensive apartment in downtown Seattle. Solomon said his whole existence had been a 'facade' – "I was so scared of losing it."
Pechman ruled that the defendant was mentally immature. The judge said "Mr. Soloway went into his bedroom at age 11, turned on his computer, and that froze him in time in terms of social development,". Nevertheless, the jurist wanted to send a message. She said prosecuting spammers was "new territory" in jurisprudence. In the end, Pechman was not as lenient as the defence sought – Soloway's solicitor had asked for two years at a low security prison camp and a fine of less than $100,000. An AP news agency reports that last weekend spammer "Eddie" Davidson, who was sentenced to 21 months in April, simply walked out of such a camp.
However, the judge also refused to set the harsh example demanded by the prosecution and kept the sentence well below the demanded nine years. Pechman gave Soloway 60 days to report for imprisonment so that he can resolve problems with his medication. Soloway suffers from Tourette syndrome.