A federal grand jury in Dallas returned an indictment this week charging 19 individuals with conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. 15 of the defendants are charged with email fraud. All in all, these defendants are accused of defrauding various companies, from telcos to web developers, of $15,000,000.
[I]f convicted, the conspiracy charge carries a maximum statutory sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Each of the obstruction charges carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,00 fine. If a defendant is convicted on a felony and also on false registration of a domain name, the penalty for that felony conviction is doubled, or increased by seven years, whichever is less. Restitution could be ordered.
False registration of a domain name will add up to 7 years onto any sentence. This is probably one reason so many spammers are now hiding behind domains by proxy. That won’t add to their jail time if they end up convicted of a felony.
This description from the FBI press release sounds very familiar:
The conspirators created, purchased and used shell companies to hide the true identity of the owners or operators of the companies, or the relationships between the companies. They also established P.O. Boxes, commercial remailer services, shell offices, apartments, or other physical locations to hide owners’ or operators’ identity or the relationships between the companies. They assumed multiple fake identities to hide true ownership of the shell companies and made materially false representations to their victims, by mail, fax, telephone, e-mail, or other communications, to obtain goods and services from them.
I know a number of spammers who have a series of shell companies in order to hide the relationships between their various websites. They have one shell that’s used for their advertisers. They have another shell that’s used for their affiliates and they have lots of shell companies and domains that are used in their emails.