A man known as "The Timeshare Spammer" said yesterday he will plead guilty to one count of violating anti-spam laws, marking one of the first prosecutions using the federal statute.
Peter Moshou, 37, of Auburndale, Fla., could face up to three years in prison for violating a federal anti-spam law. Prosecutors say Moshou sent millions of unsolicited commercial Emails using Atlanta-based EarthLink's network.
The messages, sent throughout 2004 and 2005, were about brokerage services for people interested in selling their timeshares.
EarthLink filed a civil lawsuit against Moshou in January after the company detected a massive influx of spam in its system and later handed its investigation over to federal prosecutors.
On Thursday, as Moshou awaited a first hearing with U.S. Magistrate Gerrilyn Brill, he did not seem like a man who could face prison time and a fine of up to $350,000 for sending the spam Emails. Wearing a striped shirt and tennis shoes, Moshou idly chatted with prosecutors about spam attempts, laughing as one joked about spamming ploys.
But when the court hearing began, no one on either side of the counsel table was laughing.
"Internet spam is more than just an annoyance," said U.S. Attorney David Nahmias. "It is criminal."
EarthLink says the Emails falsify "from" addresses, use deceptive subject lines, fail to identify the sender and fail to provide an electronic unsubscribe option, among other violations.
Those requirements are part of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003. Spammers who violate the rules face possible prison time and criminal fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for an organization.
Moshou's case is among the first prosecutions using the federal law, said Larry Slovensky, EarthLink's assistant general counsel.
The first criminal conviction under the federal law was believed to be in September 2004, when Nicholas Tombros, of Marina del Rey, Calif., pleaded guilty of using unprotected wireless networks to send more than 100 unsolicited adult-themed Emails from his car.
Moshou's case marks the second high-profile prosecution EarthLink has helped secure. After the Internet service provider in 2003 won a $16.4 million judgment against Howard Carmack, the so-called Buffalo Spammer, the company turned its evidence over to New York prosecutors.
In May 2004, Carmack was sentenced to up to seven years in prison for sending 850 million junk Emails through accounts he opened with stolen identities.
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