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Bogus attorney pleads guilty to domain scam

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A cybersquatter who posed as a high-powered lawyer in a bid to trick rightful owners into handing over their domain names faces a possible prison term after confessing to the scam.

David Scali, of Las Vegas, threatened to launch $100,000 trademark infringement lawsuits unless the proprietors of various internet sites gave up their domain name registrations within two days. The threats came from email accounts Scali registered under an alias and sent between late June and early July 2006.

Scali targeted domains with titles similar to big-name websites. He hoped to coin in advertising revenues off these sites from surfers who strayed onto the domains by mistake, after accidentally typing the wrong address into their browser. The scam was pretty unsophisticated, at best, and quickly unravelled, leading to Scali's arrest on fraud charges.

In a plea agreement, Scali admitted to a single count to wire fraud concerning a victim who handed over a domain very similar to citysearch.com after receiving (il)legal nastgrams from the grifter. The agreement talks of a sentence between probation and six months' imprisonment, but this is just a guideline for the judge in the case, who'll have the final say. ®

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