Massachusetts fires legal broadside at spam gang

... as failed junk mailers escape FTC fine

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly obtained an emergency court order on Wednesday shutting down dozens of websites allegedly operated by a sophisticated ring of Boston area spammers. The group are allegedly behind millions of unsolicited, deceptive email messages touting unapproved counterfeit drugs, pirated software, and pornography that have plagued email users for months.

Leo Kuvayev and six other people - members of what's claimed to be one of the world's largest spam gangs - are accused of sending the messages in violation of consumer protection laws in a suit filed by Riley's office this week. Kuvayev is listed in Spamhaus register of the world’s 200 worst spammers here

Vladislav Khokholkov, Anna Orlova, Pavel Tkachuk, Michelle Marco, Dennis Nartikoev, Pavel Yashin and two companies: 2K Services and Ecash Pay are named in the suit along with Kuvayev, the alleged ring-leader. The suit accuses the unmagnificent seven of violations of Massachusetts' Consumer Protection Act and the Federal CAN-SPAM Act and seeks the imposition of a permanent injunction and unspecified damages against the defendants.

Although the exact number of emails sent by the gang is unclear, a spam trap run by Microsoft intercepted 45,000 spam messages sent in the three weeks between 12 June and 4 July, 2004. Massachusetts' investigation, coupled with data from Microsoft, found that Kuvayev and the defendants regularly shifted spamvertised domain names and websites to different internet addresses.

"By following the domain names through several of these shifts, uncovering more domain names linked to identical websites, and obtaining registration information from website hosting companies, investigators were able to determine the identity of Kuvayev and others and link them to websites selling counterfeit prescription drugs, pirated software, mortgage loan offers, counterfeit Rolex watches, and pornography," a statement on the suit explains.

"The [gang's] operations have been tracked to Russia and other countries overseas, with domain names registered in Monaco, Australia and France, and computer servers located in China, Korea, Brazil and Taiwan," it adds.

Failed bulkers escape fine

In other spam lawsuit news, the FTC announced on Tuesday that it had settled a suit against spammers who couldn't afford to pay the damages levied against them. The case concerns a network of firms punting fuel efficiency products using spam messages sent from false addresses. These junk mail messages featured bogus marketing claims about the supposed fuel-saving benefits of their "wonder product".

Mark C. Ayoub, his companies, Diverse Marketing Group, and Diverse Marketing Group; and Floyd and Marcia Tassin and their company, Net Marketing Croup, got off with a promise to "spam no more" after convincing the FTC that they couldn't afford fines of $292,000 and $9,000, respectively. Litigation against other defendants in the case, International Research and Development of Nevada and Anthony Renda, continues. ®

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