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Canadian Spammer Fined Over $1 Billion 379

Posted by timothy
from the get-poor-quick-scheme dept.
innocent_white_lamb writes "A man has been fined ONE BEELYUN DOLLARS (yes, really) for sending 4,366,386 spam messages that were posted on Facebook. He was fined $100 for each message, and including punitive damages he now owes $1,068,928,721.46. A ruling by a US District Court judge in San Jose, California has now been upheld by the Quebec Superior Court (the defendant lives in Montreal)."
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Canadian Spammer Fined Over $1 Billion

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:12PM (#33803612)

    Asking for help paying for it!

  • by wealthychef (584778) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:14PM (#33803628)
    I just have to think -- when was the last time a large corporation was fined $1 billion for anything? This has to be just because he had a crappy lawyer or something. Justice quality depends on personal resources in America, no doubt about it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by houstonbofh (602064)

      I just have to think -- when was the last time a large corporation was fined $1 billion for anything? This has to be just because he had a crappy lawyer or something. Justice quality depends on personal resources in America, no doubt about it.

      The real question is when have they paid it... There have been fines. (Reduced on appeal)

      • by rtb61 (674572) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:46PM (#33803952) Homepage

        In this case, the spammer went with the, no lawyer defence and didn't even bother to turn up. Big catch with that is "Guerbuez fooled its users into providing him with their user names and passwords" and that is interfering with a computer network a criminal offence. The evidence for which has now been established in a civil court and the spammer has show complete contempt for that court not only be freely admitting his guilt but also by mocking the fine by saying he will declare bankrupt and keep all the criminal proceeds from that crime.

        This then forces US law to intervene and seek criminal prosecution for interfering with a computer network, via obtaining user name and passwords under false pretences and using that to fraudulently misrepresent the products he was advertising as being recommended by friends of the victims and also interfering with those 'friends' computer network.

        You have the right to remain silent, remember those words when you want to get rich quick by breaking the law and don't make a ass out of yourself by publicly bragging about and defending your criminal activities.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Declaring bankruptcy doesn't do a single thing to shield you when there are criminal charges involved.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Since the guy's canadian and lives in canada.. And this is a US court ruling..

          He went with the "I don't live in that country and they can fuck off" defence...

          • by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @01:05AM (#33804538)

            Actually to make matters more confusing, he is a Quebecker, they have different civil laws than the rest of Canada... however the Quebec civil courts upheld the US ruling.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mmontour (2208)

            Since the guy's canadian and lives in canada.. And this is a US court ruling..
            He went with the "I don't live in that country and they can fuck off" defence...

            Ask Mark Emery [www.cbc.ca] how well that defense works.

      • by biryokumaru (822262) <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:47PM (#33803960)
        No, the real question is how the hell does $100 per message times 4.4 million messages equal $1 billion. $600 million in "punitive damages?"
        • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:45AM (#33804412)
          It doesn't, it's $440m for the messages and the remainder is punitive damages.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Dahamma (304068)

            Yeah, 'cause that $1B total fine to a bald, goateed, tatooed, BROKE spammer in Canada is really going to send that extra message: "all you bald, goateed, tatooed, broke spammers in Canada, don't spam or we will fine you almost a tenth of a percent of your country's GDP, payable immediately!"

            That'll learn 'em.

            • by rah1420 (234198) <rah1420@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @06:10AM (#33805958)

              Please tell me how his physical appearance has anything to do with what he's being assessed as a fine.

              And you might amend that description to "bald, goateed, tattooed, BROKE, unrepentant and defiant." Seems to me that if you brag about your crime, threaten BK so that nobody can 'come after you' etc. etc. that perhaps the judge setting the award might take that into consideration when pronouncing sentence, dontcha think?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Sulphur (1548251)

          No, the real question is how the hell does $100 per message times 4.4 million messages equal $1 billion. $600 million in "punitive damages?"

          Plus $400 million in Court Costs for all the copies they had to make.

        • by frostfreek (647009) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @08:37AM (#33806704)
          The extra money goes to the Harmonized Sales Tax.
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Big O managed to squeeze BP for 20 of them. He didn't even need more than a stern look. I suppose technically that wasn't a "fine".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'll believe it when the money is paid. How much time does BP get to produce the money? Under what circumstances would they not have to pay? Nobody writes a check just because Big O said to.

        Obama and BP needed a public relations victory, so the most expedient thing to do was for BP to offer a huge settlement. The loopholes could be discussed after the cameras were turned off.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:27PM (#33803770) Homepage

      I just have to think -- when was the last time a large corporation was fined $1 billion for anything? This has to be just because he had a crappy lawyer or something.

      If my lawyer had come and said "Great news, I got your fine reduced from $1 billion to $10 million" I'd say "Great, that's like reduing my 20000 year sentence to a 200 year sentence." Corporations try their best to avoid a billion dollar fine because they might just have the money to pay it. If my lawyer wasted his time doing the same, he would be a crappy lawyer.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by beav007 (746004)
        It's a total of $1,068,928,721.46 USD, which is about $83.45 CAD.

        Completely different.
    • Eli Lilly agreed in 2009 to pay $515M, regarded as the "largest criminal fine paid by a single corporation in federal prosecution". Along with that went a $100M forfeiture of assets and a $800M civil settlement with the US and several state governments, for a grand total of $1.415 billion.

      http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2009/January/09-civ-038.html [justice.gov]

      Also, Hoffman-La Roche agreed to pay $500M in federal criminal fines back in 1999.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by spyder-implee (864295)
      I fail to see a problem. If he can pay it, good. If he can't, at least it sets a good precedent for when a business does get busted spamming.
  • by Trip6 (1184883)

    One BEEYLUN DOLLARS! And Sharks with frickin' laser beams!

    • The previous ipv4/ipv6 hand wringing exercise used the obviously SI unit "zillions".
      This EU bastardization of our beloved Footlong per Fortnight and LOC (Library of congress)
      standard measurement units must be stopped!
       

  • who knew? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wingman 5 (551897) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:15PM (#33803642)

    Who knew that Billion was spelled differently in Canada, maybe it is like color and colour.

    • by syousef (465911)

      Who knew that Billion was spelled differently in Canada, maybe it is like color and colour.

      Well maybe it has a whole other meaning. Unless he has that sort of money, they might as well have 12 unicorns and 3 pixies. Seriously what even happens to this indvidiual now that he owes a fine he can't pay? Jail? Bankruptcy (or doesn't that discharge legal fines)?

  • Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blhack (921171) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:18PM (#33803670)

    This is something that I've tried and tried and tried to explain to some of my friends that work in marketing. When you are sending spam, you are literally using somebody *else's* property in a way that they don't want you to use it in order to give them messages.

    This should be looked at no differently than causing unused speakers in my house to play radio advertisements when I want them turned off.

    You send spam, and it's taking up a limited resource (disk, bandwidth, power, man hours, etc.) to your end and against the will of the recipient. I really hope that there are more cases like this.

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:46PM (#33803938)

      This is something that I've tried and tried and tried to explain to some of my friends that work in marketing.

      "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
      --Upton Sinclair

    • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Garwulf (708651) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:46PM (#33803954) Homepage

      It's even worse than that in this case. According to the article, he was compromising other people's accounts using fake websites, and then using those accounts to send his spam so that it would appear to be from their friends. So, it's not just spam in this case - it's fraud and identity theft.

      If it were up to me, he would also be going to jail.

    • ... causing unused speakers in my house to play radio advertisements when I want them turned off.

      Hasn't that already been patented?

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:10AM (#33804168)

      I will agree with spammers that an individual spam is not a major imposition. However, it does cost people something. E-mail isn't free, you have to maintain bandwidth to receive it (a double digit percentage of our university's usage is e-mail in various forms) and it does take time for people to delete it. Not a lot, but some. So, let's be fair, we'll say a 0.1 cent fine and 0.1 second of jail or probation time for each message. Oh what's that? You sent 1 trillion spam messages? Sorry, guess you are fucked then. Should have considered the scale of your operation.

      I like it because it would really hammer home that the problem with spam is the scale, and that punishments would scale with that. So suppose you spam your company's mailing list a few times and rather than ask you to knock it off, your boss presses charges. Ok well you sent 10 messages to 1,000 people so 10,000 messages. You are on the hook for $10 in fines and about 16 minutes of probation. A mild slap on the wrist, basically, unlikely they'd even prosecute. However you are a major pharmaceutical spammer that has sent out 3 billion messages? That'll be $3 million please and we'll see you in about 9 and a half years.

      I realize that the way the laws are structured now such a thing couldn't actually happen, I just like the idea. An individual unwanted e-mail message is not a big deal, that is true, it is the scale and thus the scale should determine the punishment.

  • by Warll (1211492) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:18PM (#33803678) Homepage
    Don't worry that only works out to about twelve Canadian dollars.
    • by Laxori666 (748529)
      Hmm I can't tell if you were trying to make fun of the Canadians for having bad currency and got it wrong, since that'd mean that their currency is incredibly powerful, or if you were making a striking commentary on how the us dollar is screwed. In any case I wanted to reply saying that 1 CAD is worth more than 1 USD nowadays, but it seems to be 1 USD to 1.0159 CAD atm.
      • That's correct, inflation has almost gotten us to the point where getting those Canadian coins in your change is a positive rather than a negative. I can't actually spend a $50 or $100 bill in more than half of the stores in my local area, ironic given the ever rising prices for everything.

        Perhaps I'll be papering my walls with $20 bills within the next 10 years, ala the Weimar Republic.

      • by Warll (1211492)
        I'm canadian eh so I'm allowed to make these jokes eh, its in our constitution or something eh.

        eh.
  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:19PM (#33803690)
    If he files bankruptcy, and Facebook doesn't get their billion dollars, can Facebook claim the billion as a 'loss' (a la 'bad debt', 'uncollectable account', etc) and get a tax break out of it?
    • by BitterOak (537666)

      If he files bankruptcy, and Facebook doesn't get their billion dollars, can Facebook claim the billion as a 'loss' (a la 'bad debt', 'uncollectable account', etc) and get a tax break out of it?

      Read the article! He was fined, not sued. Fines aren't dischargable in bankruptcy.

      • Something that I simply don't know: what actually happens when someone is fined more than they are ever likely to earn in their lifetime? How much gets garnished? How do they eat, pay for shelter, etc.? At some point, I might prefer to just rob a bank and force the state to put a roof over my head and feed me if it happened to me...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Penguinisto (415985)

          Dunno about Canada, but a bit of sniffing around turned up this: US Federal law says that they can only take up to 25% of your paycheck [bcsalliance.com], or exempts up to 30x the federal minimum wage per week, whichever is bigger (though according to that site, child support, alimony and such can be taken in bigger amounts). They could come after a goodly chunk of what you own, though again, with a healthy dose of exemptions.

          Basically, I figure that they'd leave you with enough stuff to live simply, and not much else.

          OTOH,

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Read the article! He was fined, not sued. Fines aren't dischargable in bankruptcy.

        When they're made numbers, who cares??

        Nobody is going to ever earn a billion dollars in their lifetime. They'll never be able to collect. They might be able to pinch a little out of his paycheque, but they need to leave him enough to eat and survive -- they can't just leave him indigent.

        I'm not sure what they can do -- but you're never gonna collect $1 Billion from anyone.

  • How can a Canadian court "uphold" a ruling from a US district court? Why do Canadian courts even care unless this guy is going to be extradited?

    • Re:um (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Libertarian001 (453712) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:31PM (#33803812)

      Possibly they're not "upholding" the US court ruling, but rather, they're not finding contrary to what a foreign court has found. Splitting hairs? Maybe. The one SCOTUS case that I heard oral arguments for (yes, in person) was a jurisdictional issue. A US merchant had already been found against by the Chinese Admiralty, he didn't like it, counter-sued in the US and it made it's way up to SCOTUS. I think it was Ginsberg that came right out and asked why they should create an international incident by "over-ruling" a foreign court. Sharp lady.

      • Re:um (Score:5, Funny)

        by biryokumaru (822262) <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:41PM (#33803902)
        Am I the only one who always finds it oddly disturbing that the acronym for Supreme Court of the United States looks an awful lot like "scrotum?"
      • Re:um (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rakshasa Taisab (244699) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:47PM (#33803966) Homepage

        It's pretty fucking simple this guys... Don't mess it up.

        A US court ruling has no power to get anything from the guy as long as he and all his possessions are outside of the US. Before anything happens in Canada a Canadian court needs to look at the case and see if it agrees on the ruling.

        • Re:um (Score:4, Informative)

          by M4DP4RROT (1377075) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:44AM (#33804408)

          It's pretty fucking simple this guys... Don't mess it up.

          A US court ruling has no power to get anything from the guy as long as he and all his possessions are outside of the US. Before anything happens in Canada a Canadian court needs to look at the case and see if it agrees on the ruling.

          From the summary:

          A ruling by by a US District Court judge in San Jose, California has now been upheld by the Quebec Superior Court

    • Re:um (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BitterOak (537666) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:32PM (#33803814)

      How can a Canadian court "uphold" a ruling from a US district court? Why do Canadian courts even care unless this guy is going to be extradited?

      Because this is a fine rather than a jail sentence, no extradition is necessary. By upholding the ruling, the Canadian court is agreeing to collect the money on behalf of the American court.

    • There are various treaties in place between pairs or groups of nations that cover much of the civilized world and prevent you from escaping debt by fleeing the country in which you incurred the debt. As long as the debt was incurred in a way that is recognized as legitimate in the country you are now in, they will treat it just like any other debt.

      Thus, in a case like this pretty much all the Canadian court would ask itself is whether or not, under Canadian standards, the US court legitimately had jurisdict

  • Priorities.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Renraku (518261) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:20PM (#33803706) Homepage

    Funny..a company was just fined a few million for (illegal) human experimentation of their bone anchoring glue which resulted in several deaths, but a spammer that didn't cause any physical harm or death is fined a billion dollars. Let's get some file sharers fined for more than the GDP of several small nations combined too, for good measure.

    I hate spammers, but you're telling me that a few million spam messages are worth more than several LIVES and ILLEGAL MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMANS?

    • by Z34107 (925136)

      Funny..a company was just fined a few million for (illegal) human experimentation of their bone anchoring glue which resulted in several deaths, but a spammer that didn't cause any physical harm or death is fined a billion dollars. Let's get some file sharers fined for more than the GDP of several small nations combined too, for good measure. I hate spammers, but you're telling me that a few million spam messages are worth more than several LIVES and ILLEGAL MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMANS?

      Absolutely! They found a practical use for lawyers! A discovery of that magnitude is worth a Nobel or two.

      • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:44PM (#33803918) Homepage Journal

        Funny..a company was just fined a few million for (illegal) human experimentation of their bone anchoring glue which resulted in several deaths, but a spammer that didn't cause any physical harm or death is fined a billion dollars. Let's get some file sharers fined for more than the GDP of several small nations combined too, for good measure.

        I hate spammers, but you're telling me that a few million spam messages are worth more than several LIVES and ILLEGAL MEDICAL EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMANS?

        Absolutely! They found a practical use for lawyers! A discovery of that magnitude is worth a Nobel or two.

        He said 'experimentation on humans'.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Teancum (67324)

      How many lives were impacted by the medical testing and how many lives were impacted by the spamming? I think $100 per person sounds pretty reasonable, and the spammer made a conscious decision to send the messages out to the other million or so people that received the spam. It was his fault, the spammer, that so many messages went out.

      At the very least, this ought to make major companies shy away from potential spamming as I'm sure the shareholders would notice a billion dollars leaving the company.

      What

    • by Nursie (632944)

      Any company doing illegal human experimentation resulting in deaths should be punished far more than that. People should be in jail for murder.

      The spammer, OTOH, made a few million people's lives just that little bit worse, and deserves to be financially ruined.

    • by md65536 (670240) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:08AM (#33804150)

      Funny..a company was just fined a few million for (illegal) human experimentation of their bone anchoring glue which resulted in several deaths ...

      Oh come on... it's ONLY their bone anchoring glue. I mean, do we even need that? They could have died from anything. Loose bone syndrome. Wandering pelvis. Smoking. Boneitis. All of these are natural causes.

  • From TFA: "He’s also barred from opening a Facebook account."

  • A ruling by by a US District Court judge in San Jose, California has now been upheld by the Quebec Superior Court (the defendant lives in Montreal)."

    How does that work between countries, especially since both courts seem to be creations of their respective state governments.

    • by debrain (29228) on Tuesday October 05, 2010 @11:45PM (#33803936) Journal

      Have a look at the concept called "comity".

    • How does that work between countries,

      The U.S. and Canada have a way to register judgments issued in one country to be collected in the other. The person seeking to collect has to prove the judgment form the originating country and prove that it is not contrary to the public policy of the country in which collection is sought. The defendant can also use the collection attempt to launch a "collateral attack" and attempt to disprove the judgment, but doing this usually requires showing that the original court lacked jurisdiction or egregiously vi

  • That's too much (Score:2, Insightful)

    by chebucto (992517)

    A 1 billion dollar fine is absurd. First, there's no way he can ever pay it. Second, it is way out of proportion to the harm caused. Third, it undermines respect for the courts by making them look out to lunch, foolish and/or vindictive.

    Think about what a billion dollars represents: the lifetime's earnings of a hundreds of well-paid people, or a thousand low-wage people, or the GDP of a small city. Spam sucks, but the damage this guy caused doesn't measure up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by slimjim8094 (941042)

      Nobody expects him to pay. Even a fine of 1 million dollars (1/1000 of the amount) would be essentially impossible to pay - that's many people's lifetime earnings before expenses.

      This is clearly a no-more-fucking-around sort of fine. Whatever they fined him at, he wouldn't be paying it, so might as well use the actual amount to send a message.

    • by cynyr (703126)

      I think they decided what the punitive damages for a single piece of spam would be, $100-$200, and multiplied by the number he sent out, 4.37 million messages. Seems pretty simple, he did 100-200 worth of damage 4.37 million times. It looks foolish, but on the other hand it doesn't.

      The key here is "punitive" a way to make the dollar value go up to make it a deterrent. Like jail time, or loosing a limb, or ... whatever for a crime.

    • Divide it down and maybe it is more reasonable. Suppose he sent 1 trillion spam messages, that could be a fine of just 0.1 cents per message sent. A spam message does cause harm. E-mail takes bandwidth to move around and bandwidth costs money. We could save a good bit on bandwidth costs at work if we could eliminate spam. It would save on incoming mail bandwidth, but also on bandwidth when people check their mail from off campus and get a spam message the filter didn't catch.

      While the harm of an individual

    • by md65536 (670240)

      A 1 billion dollar fine is absurd. First, there's no way he can ever pay it.

      It's common to be penalized more than you can pay. It sets a precedent. Such things can also be used to "send a message" to others: Do this, and it's not going to be financially beneficial. If an organization with a lot more money decided to do this, it would hurt.

      It's like RIAA's scare tactics, which I think are despicable, but in this case I think it's okay to bankrupt someone who is making money off of scamming a lot of people, and I think it's okay to scare off people who would intentionally plan to har

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kjella (173770)

      To be honest I don't really care whether they can pay or not if the damages are proportional to the harm caused. Even if you're dead broke you can cause great grief to other people, same with people that serve a dozen consecutive life sentences. It's worth making the point even if there's nothing to be gained from it. But though I find spammers to be the scum of the earth, I got to admit there are worse people. It doesn't help taking the damage figures in US courts seriously either, it's like taken out of a

    • by D Ninja (825055)

      Actually, a billion dollars is WAY more money than any of the examples you gave. It's so much money, most people can't even wrap their minds around how big it is. The top 150 cities of GDP include cities that are ~$5 billion [citymayors.com]. That's the top 150 cities in the world. So, he has to pay back as much money as some large cities make. As for those hundreds and thousands of well-paid and low-wage people...how much do you consider low wage? (For me, 1000 * $30,000/year = $30 million - not even close to a billion.)

      Ei

  • Where's my money? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DeadlyFoez (1371901)
    If they "fined" him $100 for each message, then with the 20+ messages that I got because of him means that the US government should be giving ME that money. I'm the one who got spammed, why is the government getting money for what he did wrong to me? That does not make sense.
    • Well according to the article, the court ruled that he owes Facebook the money, not the government. I guess it makes sense -- he used their network to distribute and profit off of the spam. He did so by tricking users into giving him their login credentials, and once he had that, he would run programs to send out the millions of spam messages. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone will see a dime out of this.

  • ... when a billion dollars was real money!

  • by multiben (1916126) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @12:59AM (#33804502)
    To just update you folks who don't like to read and feel like we should cut this guy a break, he didn't just send annoying spam messages - he conned passwords out of users and then fraudulently accessed their accounts. If it was just the spam that would be one thing, but this is much more serious than that. As far as article summaries go this one is pretty crappy because it misses the whole point of the story.
  • by Mike Van Pelt (32582) on Wednesday October 06, 2010 @01:31PM (#33812312)

    Quote the spammer, “If there’s anything that does hit my e-mail box that I didn’t ask to receive, I’ll simply press the delete button."

    Any spammer which uses this line of argument should be locked in a prison cell with a 1200 baud terminal logged in to an email account. He only gets fed if he responds to the "Your food is ready" email within 15 minutes.

    The email address he is given for this purpose is posted on every spammer list on Earth.

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