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Spam The Courts

Spammer Lance Atkinson Fined $16 Million 100

Posted by timothy
from the jail-would-be-finer dept.
Nashville Guy writes "According to Australia's The Age, 'A New Zealand man living in Queensland and believed to be behind the world's largest spam operation, has been ordered to pay more than $16 million for running the illegal enterprise. Lance Atkinson, 26, originally from Christchurch, was living in Pelican Waters on the Sunshine Coast when the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had his assets frozen last year. ... The FTC found Atkinson and American Jody Smith were at the centre of the world's largest internet spam operation, dubbed 'AffKing,' having recruited spammers from around the world.'"
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Spammer Lance Atkinson Fined $16 Million

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @11:59AM (#30284908) Journal
    The BBC coverage [bbc.co.uk] correctly notes:

    Mr Atkinson will only have to pay his part of the $15.15m fine if he enters the US.

    I guess all we can do is pray for extradition?

    • Perhaps a clandestine kidnapping mission is in order. The unknown kidnappers could then mysteriously release Mr. Atkinson inside the United States.
      • by kirill.s (1604911) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @12:09PM (#30285046)
        ...where he would pay the fine or go to jail and share a cell with men who have enlarged their penises, taken Viagra and are looking for a new relationship.
      • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @12:12PM (#30285082)

        It appears that New Zealand does [wikipedia.org] extradite to the U.S.

        I guess the question is whether or not the U.S. will request it.

        • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

          by w0mprat (1317953)

          It appears that New Zealand does [wikipedia.org] extradite to the U.S.

          I guess the question is whether or not the U.S. will request it.

          New Zealand != Australia, the man lives in Queensland, an Australian state. That must be a north american understanding of geopraphy I detect. You see, Australia is just a small island somewhere to the south of New Zealand and the continent of Tasmania... um...wait..

        • by mjwx (966435)

          It appears that New Zealand does extradite to the U.S.

          I guess the question is whether or not the U.S. will request it.

          The spammer is an Australian resident but that shouldn't matter as our government is know for bending over and giving the US what it wants. I only hope that they screw up the paperwork, do yank public servants often write "Michael" instead of "Lance" as we Australians would like that very much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ArhcAngel (247594)

        I don't know...I suspect there are a few Nigerian aristocrats who might like to have a go at him.

    • by clone53421 (1310749) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @12:08PM (#30285034) Journal

      Also, according to that article, Atkinson’s assets weren’t frozen (contrary to what the summary says).

      Jody Smith, his accomplice in the US, was the one whose assets were frozen. Smith has pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods” and is to be sentenced here in the US this month (December).

      However, I still have hopes for Lance Atkinson seeing justice... his brother, Shane, had already been fined $122,000 in a separate case by a New Zealand court (Lance’s conviction was made by a US court, which has no jurisdiction in New Zealand – so he’d have to be extradited, unless he foolishly decided to come here for some reason). I imagine if Lance could be similarly tried in a New Zealand court, he’d be required to pay whatever they demanded.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dangitman (862676)

        ... so he’d have to be extradited, unless he foolishly decided to come here for some reason

        Oh, that's easy. Just send him an email claiming to be from a former New Zealand prince and ambassador to the US, who has $1 million locked up in a US bank account which can't be accessed unless someone travels to the US to make the withdrawal on his behalf.

      • – so he’d have to be extradited, unless he foolishly decided to come here for some reason

        Dude LOVES In N Out burger. I don't know if you've ever had it, but 16 million is a small price to taste In N Out again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Can extraditions be requested for an offense that only carries a fine?
    • Does he actually have 16 million dollars? Because if he doesn't wtf is the point in any of this? To send a message? What message that apparently they are retarded? Message received, over and out.

      Quit pissing about and fine him 16 Billi... no Quardrillion dollars, that'll teach'em!

  • just data (Score:4, Funny)

    by czarangelus (805501) <iapetusNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @12:00PM (#30284932)
    Advertisement wants to be free.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Advertisement wants to be free.

      I know you are being funny. I am bored and want to write this anyway.

      Of course advertisement wants to be free. Advertisers would be delieriously happy if people freely distributed their electronic ads via filesharing networks. In fact, some advertizers try hard to make their ads entertaining just so that things like this will happen.

      Spam isn't about free distribution of data though. It is about pushing data on to users whether they want it or not (and in huge amounts so as

  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @12:06PM (#30285010) Homepage

    He was also told to apologise to everyone he'd sent spam to.

    Foolishly, the court allowed him to send these apologies via email.

    • Meh. I wouldn’t mind... it would just go to the spam folder. Gmail is amazing, no?


    • Dear Sir's,

      Sorry about the Spam let me make it up to you, I have arranged a special offer to make up for his wrong doing on my part, the chance to purchase some magic beans from a guy named Jack at $49.95* **

      * shipped from India, Your credit card will be charged in Kazakhstan, an official receipt and warranty will be issued from Nigeria, please allow 4-6 months for shipping. Not responsible for Beans that fail to Grow or Grow out of Control.

      **Free Shipping for the first 500 people that respond becaus
  • Is he the man responsible for the larger penis advertisements because if so that sucks, I've just saved up all my money to join... guess I'll have to buy viagra!
  • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... x.com minus berr> on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @12:39PM (#30285438) Homepage

    According to the original documentation [spamhaus.org], 'In early 2008, a security company identified one botnet -- which it dubbed "Mega-D" -- that sent sparn promoting Affking's VPXL and King Replica products as the worst botnet in the world, accounting for 32% of all spam.'

    The Mega-D [wikipedia.org] botnet consisted at least 264,784 [softpedia.com] computers.

    That's 264,784 UNAUTHORIZED COMPUTER ACCESS FELONIES.

    Why the FUCK are we 'fining' someone who committed at least 264,784 felonies? We invade goddamn countries and charge people with war crimes for that level of criminality!

    Anti-spam laws are nonsense. Forget the damn anti-spam laws. Lock them up for the felonies they're committing. Extradition would be a lot easier, too. (Of course, we could just find a few hundred IPs this guy hijacked in Australia, turn them over, and have him locked up there his entire life, instead.)

    • According to the original documentation [spamhaus.org], 'In early 2008, a security company identified one botnet -- which it dubbed "Mega-D" -- that sent sparn promoting Affking's VPXL and King Replica products as the worst botnet in the world, accounting for 32% of all spam.'

      "Sparn"?

      • by Richy_T (111409)

        You know, like v1agra sparn

      • by Nursie (632944)

        Maybe it's that I'm on my second beer, but your post just made me laugh like a loon.

        +1, would read again.

      • by DavidTC (10147)

        Yeah, I noticed that after I posted.

        I copied and pasted that text from the Spamhous link, and it's wrong there too...clearly, some OCR went wrong at some point. ;)

        I'm against spam and sparn. And sparm, while we're at it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Lets face it Australia is a prison colony anyway, so by definition he is already doing time :)

    • So you suggest:

      Lock them up for the felonies they're committing. Extradition would be a lot easier, too. (Of course, we could just find a few hundred IPs this guy hijacked in Australia, turn them over, and have him locked up there his entire life, instead.)

      Although as you have rightly noted extradition is extremely difficult, especially when you consider some of the countries where spammers are currently hiding.

      However, that is all moot because no amount of law enforcement, threats, or even executions will stop the spammers. And why is that, you might ask? Because no law enforcement tactic addresses the underlying problem that drives spam. For every spammer kidnapped, thrown in jail, murdered, etc... there are many, many, more waiting to

      • by Richy_T (111409)

        Start shooting stupid people?

      • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @01:32PM (#30286336) Homepage
        Spam is at its heart an economic problem, but that doesn't mean that it can't be solved using other tactics as well as economic ones. For any far reaching problem in society, the use of many different strategies together has potential to do a better job than any single one. Most responses to proposed anti-spam solutions fail to see that the solutions should occur not in an isolated form but together with other solutions. Thus for example, the standard copy and pasted anti-spam response checklist on Slashdot is always used as if the proposed technique is being touted as a magic bullet. In that regard, spam is a bit like cancer. It is quite silly to claim that we will ever have a single cure for cancer, because cancer is a complicated set of diseases with multiple causes. But a series of different responses (such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation) used appropriate together can do a pretty decent job in most cases. Thus, cancer is no longer a death sentence. The spam problem should be targetd the same way.
      • by shentino (1139071)

        Spam may be an economic problem, but it has political complications. The credit card industry, which btw has a VERY powerful lobby, makes a tidy profit on credit card purchases from spammed products.

        We should not just let spammers get away with it though.

      • Spam is not an economic problem, it is a social problem. However the solution isn't economic or social. The solution is socialogical; it is threat of pain and/or death.

        The risk/reward structure is so far out of whack that there is no disincentive affecting the choice.

        As previously mentioned, 250,000 unlawful computer access felonies is huge number, and that is what we should be looking at. Nothing short of public flogging/caning/torture or even execution will stop the asshats from being asshats.

        That removes

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Nothing short of public flogging/caning/torture or even execution will stop the asshats from being asshats.

          For reasons I already stated, that won't work, either. Even if we made spamming a capital crime in the US this afternoon, it wouldn't mean shit; spammers would continue to spam because they know that they are someplace where the long arm of the US law can't touch them.

          But even if somehow, every country in the world agreed today to make spamming a capital crime, that wouldn't mean shit either. It wouldn't take away from the insane profitability of sending spam. And the spammers would know that there ar

          • You're mistaken. My response is not due to Panic, but rather having to deal with the consequences of hosed computers that have been rooted by bots.

            The economic damage caused by said bots and rootkits is HUGE.

            In the US Constitution, we have the ability to issue letters of marque, which can be used to fight this economic piracy. All we need to do is issue a couple of these letters of marque and let the bastards die a miserable horrible death at the hands of soldiers of fortune.

            And no, I'm not kidding. You can

            • The economic damage caused by said bots and rootkits is HUGE.

              If more people set up their computers in a half-way intelligent manner the rootkits would be a thing of the past. Rootkits won't go away as long as the vast majority of windows users log in with full administrator rights. But hey, you're getting closer to the reality of the spamming problem now. You have at least acknowledged an economic component of the problem. Let's see if you find reality from there...

              In the US Constitution, we have the ability to issue letters of marque, which can be used to fight this economic piracy. All we need to do is issue a couple of these letters of marque and let the bastards die a miserable horrible death at the hands of soldiers of fortune.

              Nope. Another swing and another miss. International hit men will not solve the problem.

              If the

              • If there was a finite supply of spammers, and a limited amount of money to be made from spamming, then a hit man might have some impact. However since neither of those are true, you have proposed nothing more than a panicky, feel-good solution. You might as well propose rounding them up and putting them on a spaceship with a course for the sun.

                There is a limited supply of spammers. The number is somewhere around 6.5 Billion, but it is limited. It is actually probably much less than this, since most people i

                • If there was a finite supply of spammers, and a limited amount of money to be made from spamming, then a hit man might have some impact. However since neither of those are true, you have proposed nothing more than a panicky, feel-good solution. You might as well propose rounding them up and putting them on a spaceship with a course for the sun.

                  There is a limited supply of spammers. The number is somewhere around 6.5 Billion, but it is limited
                  Suddenly the problem is more manageable than you think.

                  So you are willing to murder billions of people to make yourself feel better? That is an interesting approach there...

                  At no point did I propose actually dealing with the spammers directly, as you are trying to do.

                  No, you simply wring your hands and make excuses as to why you can't deal with them. Allowing them free reign to continue to spam, without any consequences, from places you won't go to. Yup, that sure is a solution.

                  You haven't demonstrated any interest in solutions to stop spam that don't involve murder. I have outlined what needs to be done to stop spam. But since it doesn't correlate with your pro-murder stance there is no reason to expect you would be interested in it anyways.

                  You are wrong on that account as well. Many spammers are the leaders of companies (which send spam) and network with many other capitalists (some of whom pay for them to send out spam on their behalf). They may be many things but antisocial is not one of them. And they are sending spam from places where it is legal to do so; they don't see themselves above the law, they just don't agree with US law.

                  Um, this is where you are wrong. Spammers don't use their own equipment to spam, or else RBLs would work. They steal other people's equipment and services to send their spam. In the old days, they used Open Relays to send their spam, and when those closed, they made spambots.

                  Do yourself a favor, go back and re-read the statement you thought you were replying to. At no point did I say that th

          • by maudin8 (1532265)
            It's great to see "one of those guys". You know the kind of guy that doesn't state an opinion on the subject per se, but instead just talks about anothers post....wait......crap......
        • by DavidTC (10147)

          We don't need capital punishment, or other such things.

          We just need to enforce the laws exactly as they stand. It's something like a minimum of six months in prison for each access, so in practice spammers would end up in prison for thousands of years.

          Of course, parole and good behavior would mean they could get out in 200-300 years...we're not heartless.

          That the risk/reward structure is so far out of wack is very puzzling. You think some state DA would have a lot of fun arresting one of these guys and c

      • spam is an economic problem

        No, it's not. Not since all the ways to do it without committing felonies were stopped. Spamming today is organized crime.

        • spam is an economic problem

          No, it's not. Not since all the ways to do it without committing felonies were stopped. Spamming today is organized crime.

          But why is the spam sent out? The answer is extremely simple.

          Economics

          Spam is sent because it is profitable. No matter what you tell yourself, spam isn't sent to you to piss you off, flood your inbox, waste your time, or anything like that. Spam is sent to make money.

          Hence spam is an economic problem, and if you want to truly deal with it, you need an economic solution. If spamming ceases to be profitable, then there will cease to be spam. The spammers just want to get paid, that's all.

          • by DavidTC (10147)

            Almost all crimes are economic problems, you loon.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Jedi Alec (258881)

            Economics

            Spam is sent because it is profitable. No matter what you tell yourself, spam isn't sent to you to piss you off, flood your inbox, waste your time, or anything like that. Spam is sent to make money.

            Hence spam is an economic problem, and if you want to truly deal with it, you need an economic solution. If spamming ceases to be profitable, then there will cease to be spam. The spammers just want to get paid, that's all.

            Houses are burglared because it is profitable. No matter what you tell yourself, b

        • by DavidTC (10147)

          You are 100 correct.

          Antispam laws were useful in exactly one way: They require 'legit' spam to be identifiable. That in and of itself was completely pointless in solving the problem.

          What it did accomplish, though, was to make it where we could find 'legit' companies, and either get their ISP to cut them off, or get their ISP's ISP to cut their ISP off, etc.

          So, ironically, laws that were asserted would make some forms of spamming legal have entirely resulted in 'legit' spam going away.

          A lot of people sti

      • by DavidTC (10147)

        Well, yes, but mugging is also an economic problem. Something like three quarters of all crimes are economically based.

        I don't really see what that has to do with anything.

    • According to the original documentation [spamhaus.org], 'In early 2008, a security company identified one botnet -- which it dubbed "Mega-D" -- that sent sparn promoting Affking's VPXL and King Replica products as the worst botnet in the world, accounting for 32% of all spam.'

      The Mega-D [wikipedia.org] botnet consisted at least 264,784 [softpedia.com] computers.

      That's 264,784 UNAUTHORIZED COMPUTER ACCESS FELONIES.

      Why the FUCK are we 'fining' someone who committed at least 264,784 felonies? We invade goddamn countries and charge people with war crimes for that level of criminality!

      Anti-spam laws are nonsense. Forget the damn anti-spam laws. Lock them up for the felonies they're committing. Extradition would be a lot easier, too. (Of course, we could just find a few hundred IPs this guy hijacked in Australia, turn them over, and have him locked up there his entire life, instead.)

      The laws are completely useless and always have been. They were passed to make consumers think that government is doing something. But the extradition and prosecution is a lot harder than it sounds, even when the criminal is in a friendly country like Australia. It takes forever and costs a lot of money, so the law enforcement agencies pass.

    • but (Score:1, Offtopic)

      but saddam gassed his own computers

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Why aren't we? ...that's a good question actually, and I think I might have a few answers.

      Spammers will always have safe harbor in countries that hate the US...countries that might actually be happy to let the spammers do the dirty work of flipping the bird to the americans for them.

      Also, all the advertisers pushing their products by spam obviously are profiting or they wouldn't be using spam as a medium of advertising.

      Not to mention that exchange fees net the credit card co's a handsome profit...and they a

    • Did he actually commit unauthorized access? Wouldn’t that depend on whether he created the botnet, or merely rented it?

      • by vux984 (928602)

        Did he actually commit unauthorized access? Wouldn't that depend on whether he created the botnet, or merely rented it?

        Does it really matter?

        If mean, I could steal a car, or I could knowingly rent one from a group of car thieves... either way I'd be guilty of something.

      • by DavidTC (10147)

        That would just makes it conspiracy to commit unauthorized computer access.

        But not 'creating' the botnet doesn't help. If he used the network to send out spam, or for any reason, that was unauthorized access.

        If you watch someone break into a computer (and know they broke in) and they step away from the keyboard and let you use it, tada, you just also committed unauthorized computer access.

        In the older days, oddly enough, there was actually a legal defense here. Worms would leap from computer to computer,

    • I'd say an appropriate punishment would be community service. We could make him write GPL'd code for a distributed computing project dedicated to advancing various scientific goals. On one hand, he's clearly had experience with distributed computing. On the other hand:

      Dear freind;

      Warm salutations and delicious felicitations to you. I am a Nigerian proffesor trying to solve caancer. If you can help I will transfer $1M to you on complting the project. Please send me your IP aderres and open ports 11-61234 on

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      That's 264,784 UNAUTHORIZED COMPUTER ACCESS FELONIES.

      Why the FUCK are we 'fining' someone who committed at least 264,784 felonies? We invade goddamn countries and charge people with war crimes for that level of criminality!

      One word: XCP. Far worse than spammers pwning your PC, but nobody spent a day in jail over it.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      Why the FUCK are we 'fining' someone who committed at least 264,784 felonies? We invade goddamn countries and charge people with war crimes for that level of criminality!

      Because jailing people cost money, yes you could make him pay for his own imprisonment with that fine but if you do that what money would be left over for jailing pot smokers and fighting pointless wars.

      My question is why hasn't Australia arrested and at least fined this guy. If Senator Conjob put half the effort he put into the intern

    • And we're extraditing an Englishman who embarrassingly hacked some government websites looking for UFO's.

      Madness.
  • Quick question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Where exactly does the 16 million go? Does the federal government get it simply because they have to jurisdiction to make said case? Shouldn't it go to the people who were actually subject to the damages caused by the spam?

    Wait, who am I kidding...

    • The fine money goes to the sovereign (also known as: state, crown or prince). In effect is will be used for the benefit of all citizens of the state.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jez9999 (618189)

      5 minutes of US DoD operational costs?

  • For a while, the likes of Leo Kuvayev and his cronies were taking advantage of the lax laws in New Zealand and purchasing their spamming (and spamvertised) domains there. It took quite some time to get the New Zealanders to distance themselves from the profit of those crimes, now it is encouraging to see they are taking a more active anti-spam stance.

    Its too bad that in the end this all won't be worth squat.
    • by Kalriath (849904) *

      What the fuck are you talking about? Buying domains has nothing to do with the spam - and it's up to the registrars if they want to take on the responsibility for domains purchased from them not being used for spam. Laws don't change that one bit - in fact you could go ahead and buy 155,000 domains from GoDaddy tomorrow and spam content on them... would you be talking about the USAs lax laws then? No? Surprise!

      • What the fuck are you talking about?

        I'm not convinced you have any idea what you are talking about.

        Buying domains has nothing to do with the spam

        You are dead wrong. For many, many, cases, buying domains is intensely tied to spam. How do you advertise a website without a domain name? Sure, you can do it, but the credibility is missing. Even more so, you can change the DNS record quickly for a domain, so that if your ISP kicks you out you can still get customers by the spam you sent out.

        On top of that are also the domains registered for name services for the spamvertised domains th

  • Now that they've cut the head off the Hydra, life should be good.

  • I'm sure some idiot will think it's real, all you need is one. Offer $5M for his head in a box.
  • Do I really care about SPAM?
    Not nearly as much as I do junk mail.
    Why? I pay for my junk mail.
    It is delivered for next to nothing by the United States Postal Service.
    I pay taxes therefor I am actually paying for the delivery of this garbage.
    They are just like spam, they try to look legitimate to trick you into opening them.
    Also, they are more hazardous to the environment than spam.
    I get NetFlix. If I don't have a new netflix due in the mail I don't get my mail. Why... because ALL of it is garbage.
    I pay al

    • You can generally opt out of most junk mail (http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs4-junk.htm). Trying to opt out of spam typically gets you more spam.

      And you're confused if you think you don't pay for spam. You pay for your internet service. Some of this cost is for bandwidth consumed by spam, some is for storage of spam, some is for spam blocking, etc.. I've seen estimates that suggests that 20%-30% of your internet costs are for spam... even if it never makes it into your inbox.

    • RecycleDirect (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @02:20PM (#30287234) Homepage

      The USPS should offer RecycleDirect service. With RecycleDirect, you specify which classes of mail are automatically forwarded to the regional mixed paper recycling center nearest the sender. RecycleDirect mail will be diverted at the first sorting post office directly to the recycling center.

    • by Bigbutt (65939)

      That's ok. You're also paying for SPAM. From ISP costs on down to the people who are scammed out of their life savings and go bankrupt (raising rates) or can't afford to take care of themselves so we do.

      [John]

    • I pay for my junk mail.
      It is delivered for next to nothing by the United States Postal Service.
      I pay taxes therefor I am actually paying for the delivery of this garbage.

      Actually you don't. The USPS is self-supporting. Since its reorganization into an independent organization, the USPS has become self-sufficient and has not received taxpayer-dollars since the early 1980s [wikipedia.org]

  • by w0mprat (1317953) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @01:58PM (#30286820)
    Queensland is in Australia, not New Zealand, he formerly lived in N.Z. and like most NZers in trouble with the law, moved to Australia. Australia does have a extradition treaty with the U.S.
    • and like most NZers in trouble with the law, moved to Australia. Australia does have a extradition treaty with the U.S.

      Oh, so you know Peter then. Say hi to him for me please will you

      • by mjwx (966435)

        Oh, so you know Peter then. Say hi to him for me please will you

        So Costello was one of you?

        We already knew about Crowe, he's typically in trouble with the law.

  • There are limitations that must be applied to freedom of speech in a civilized society and the limitation of abusive spam speech is one.

    This ought to establish that free speech is not an absolute right--it is a right that must be limited in some circumstances. The scope and manner of those limitations on free speech are a good indicator of the basic freedom and health of that society imposing them.

    I hate abusive spammers and I favor the limitation of their freedom to speak to me with abusive spam that I do

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