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MySpace wins record $230m judgement against spammers

'Spamford' Wallace hauled over the coals

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MySpace has won a $230 million anti-spam judgment against notorious spammer Sanford Wallace and his partner Walter Rines. US District Judge Audrey Collins made the order - reckoned to be the largest ever in an anti-spam case - after the duo failed to appear in court.

The pair were found responsible for orchestrating a phishing scam designed to harvest MySpace login credentials, prior to bombarding members with messages punting gambling and smut websites. As many as 730,000 bogus messages, rigged to appear as though they came from their friends, were sent to MySpace members, AP reports.

MySpace said the messages generated hundreds of complaints as well as incurring delivery-related costs. Some of the spam touted pornographic websites, adding insult to injury by indiscriminately appearing in the inboxes of teens as well as adults. The scam began in late 2006 and netted at least $555,850, according to court papers.

The attack was traced back to Wallace and Rines, prompting a March 2007 lawsuit from MySpace. Last month the social networking website obtained a default judgement against the pair, who never defended the case.

Under the CAN-SPAM Act each message can earn a fine of up to $100, tripled in cases where anti-spam rules are flagrantly disregarded. The judge awarded the full amount claimed by MySpace along with lawyers' fees. Rines and Wallace were jointly fined $160.4m for violations of CAN-SPAM, while Rines was fined an additional $63.4m. The duo were also fined a much more modest $1.5m for violations of California's anti-phishing law and ordered to pay $4.7m in legal fees.

Myspace's chances of recovering any money from the duo appear to range from slim to none. Nonetheless, the social networking website reckons the judgement will serve as a deterrent against other would-be spammers.

In May 2006, Wallace and his firm Smartbot.net were ordered by a federal court to pay fines of $4m over a spyware-related scam prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission. As previously reported, FTC lawyers have asked a federal judge overseeing this settlement to find Wallace and his cohorts in contempt for violating the terms of the settlement agreement.

Wallace moved to Las Vegas in 2004 in an effort to get into nightclub promotion and DJ work. His present whereabouts are unknown.

MySpace has another high-profile anti-spam case pending against another notorious junk mail merchant, Scott Richter, who faces similar accusations - he is accused of employing illicit tactics to break into MySpace profiles before spamming its members with junk. ®

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