E-Mail Spam: Will It Abate with Arrest of Alleged Master Spammer?

By Guarino, Mark | The Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 2010 | Go to article overview

E-Mail Spam: Will It Abate with Arrest of Alleged Master Spammer?


Guarino, Mark, The Christian Science Monitor


Russian Oleg Nikolaenko is in US custody on charges of mail fraud and violating a law governing online marketing. His network is believed to account for one-third of global e-mail spam.

The arrest of alleged "spam king" Oleg Nikolaenko of Moscow does not necessarily mean all those unwanted solicitations for herbal remedies and pornography will stop clogging your e-mail inbox.

Mr. Nikolaenko, who was arraigned in federal court in Milwaukee Friday, is alleged to have run one of the largest and most sophisticated spam networks in the world. His operation is responsible for sending about 10 billion spam messages a day at its peak, authorities say. His activities account for 32 percent of all global spam since 2007, the criminal complaint against him states.

The charges against Nikolaenko include one count of mail fraud and another charging he violated the Controlling the Assault of Non- Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM), which establishes guidelines for e-mail marketing.

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Nikolaenko was arrested in Las Vegas in November, but he is being arraigned in Milwaukee because that's the origin of an undercover address provided by an FBI agent who responded to one of Nikolaenko's solicitations for male enhancement drugs in November 2009. Herbal remedies showed up instead, which is the basis of the mail fraud charge. Nikolaenko pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond. If convicted, he could serve as much as five years in prison.

The pursuit of Internet fraud is often a cat-and-mouse game between international authorities and criminal organizations located mostly in Eastern Europe, where immunity laws are weak and foreign governments do not consider Internet crime as a serious threat.

Nikolaenko's arrest sheds light on "just how incredibly international" spam organizations are in terms of the operation and reach of their schemes, says John Levine, president of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, an advocacy group that helps governments write antispam laws. …

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