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Seattle Spam King Dark Mailer faces 47-month sentence

From the penthouse to the Big House

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One of the world's most prolific spammers has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison and ordered to forfeit more than $708,000 in income for blasting out tens of millions of unwanted emails.

Robert Alan Soloway, 29, on Tuesday received 47 months in federal prison following a two-and-a-half-day sentencing hearing. Federal prosecutors pushed for a nine-year sentence, but the judge presiding over the case rejected the call, saying sentencing guidelines for the nation's anti-spam statute aren't clear enough.

Even still, the next four years will be a far cry from the luxury apartment, designer clothes and other extravagances that became a way of life for Soloway. Prosecutors say he earned more than $700,000 over three years, income he pumped into a penthouse apartment overlooking Seattle's swanky Elliott Bay, more than $7,000 worth of shoes, and sunglasses worth more than $3,400. US District Judge Marsha Pechman gave Soloway 60 days to report to prison.

Soloway has emerged as one of the most reviled figures among anti-spam crusaders for the perseverance and volume of his junk mail campaign. He's been successfully sued in civil court for spamming offenses, including by Microsoft, which in 2005 obtained a $7.8m judgment. At his hearing, Soloway said he owes more than $17m in civil penalties.

And yet Soloway continued his relentless spam binge. Prosecutors say he used a program called Dark Mailer to pump out messages advertising his business called Newport Internet Marketing, which sold software for spamming. At the hearing, one exasperated businessman from Florida said he went to great lengths to stop receiving Soloway's spam, including dispatching a friend to Soloway's apartment. The barrage only stopped after Soloway was arrested.

A side note: journalists and bloggers, usually at the prompting of prosecutors, have taken to calling just about every accused or convicted spammer a "spam king." If you include Soloway, Sanford Wallace, Alan Ralsky, Scott Richter, and Eddie Davidson, that's five kings alone, and we're sure we're missing a few. Enough already. ®

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