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Wed, Nov 17, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Prolific spammer's strategies come to light in trial

JUNK MAIL Jeremy Jaynes made up to US$750,000 per month sending out millions of e-mails per day to addresses illegally obtained from eBay and America Online

AP , LEESBURG, VIRGINIA

As one of the world's most prolific spammers, Jeremy Jaynes pumped out at least 10 million e-mails a day with the help of 16 high-speed lines, the kind of Internet capacity a 1,000-employee company would need.

Jaynes' business was remarkably lucrative; prosecutors say he grossed up to US$750,000 per month. If you have an e-mail account, chances are Jaynes tried to get your attention, pitching software, pornography and work-at-home schemes.

The eight-day trial that ended in his conviction this month shed light on the operations of a 30-year-old former purveyor of physical junk mail who worked with minimal assistance out of a nondescript house in Raleigh, North Carolina.

A state jury in Leesburg has recommended a nine-year prison term in the first felony trial of spam purveyors in the US. Sentencing is set for February.

The products

During the trial, prosecutors focused on three products that Jaynes hawked: software that promises to clean computers of private information; a service for choosing penny stocks to invest in and a "FedEx refund processor" that promised US$75-an-hour work but did little more than give buyers access to a Web site of delinquent FedEx accounts.

Jaynes, going by Gaven Stubberfield and other aliases, had established a niche as a pornography purveyor, said Assistant Attorney General Russell McGuire, who prosecuted the case. But Jaynes was constantly tweaking and rotating products.

Relatively few people actually responded to Jaynes' pitches. In a typical month, prosecutors said during the trial, Jaynes might receive 10,000 to 17,000 credit card orders, thus making money on perhaps only one of every 30,000 e-mails he sent out.

But he earned US$40 a pop, and the undertaking was so vast that Jaynes could still pull in US$400,000 to US$750,000 a month, while spending perhaps US$50,000 on bandwidth and other overhead, McGuire said.

"When you're marketing to the world, there are enough idiots out there" who will be suckered in, McGuire said in an interview.

Prosecutors believe Jaynes had a net worth of up to US$24 million, and they described one of his homes as a mansion, though the e-mail came from a house described as average.

e-mail addresses

Jaynes got lists of e-mail addresses -- millions of them -- through a stolen database of America Online customers.

He also illegally obtained e-mail addresses of users of the online auction site eBay.

Prosecutors don't know how he got the lists, though McGuire said the AOL names matched a list of 92 million addresses an AOL software engineer has been charged with stealing. However Jaynes got them, they were particularly valuable because AOL customers and eBay users by their very nature have already shown a willingness to engage in e-commerce.

Under Virginia law, like a federal anti-spam measure that took effect months later, sending out commercial pitches, even on a massive scale, is not itself illegal. The e-mail must be unsolicited and contain false information as to its origin or transmission.

Jaynes did that in several ways.

He provided bogus contact information and company names when registering for Web sites, making it almost impossible for recipients to track him down.

He also falsified routing information within message headers and used software to generate phony domain names identifying the e-mail server used to send messages.

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