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Ralsky confidant agrees to rat out notorious spam gang

Second co-defendant said to plead guilty

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A woman accused of aiding notorious spam kingpin Alan Ralsky in a relentless junkmail torrent has admitted to sending tens of millions spam messages and agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of her boss. A second defendant is expected to plead guilty on Friday.

Judy M. Devenow, 56, of Lansing, Michigan, pleaded guilty to felony fraud and conspiracy charges, according to documents filed in US District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan. She was arrested in January and along with Ralsky and nine others, was indicted for involvement in a "sophisticated and extensive" spamming operation that netted some $3m. Prosecutors say the gang used botnets to relay millions of junk messages each day during a 20-month period.

In a plea agreement filed Tuesday, Devenow said that from January 2004 to September 2005 she transmitted or caused to be transmitted tens of millions of spams with fraudulent headers that disguised the origin of the messages. The spam was part of an aggressive pump and dump campaign that promoted thinly traded stock in Chinese companies with tickers including CDGT, WWBP, CWTD and PGCN. Devenow personally sent some of the messages and managed others who did the same.

Francis A. Tribble, of Los Angeles, another defendant in the case, is scheduled to enter a guilty plea on Friday, according to acting US Attorney Terrence Berg. Berg declined to provide details.

According to Devenow's lawyer, Richard E. Zuckerman of Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn, Devenow met Ralsky several years ago while she performed real estate work. After she landed in a "tough spot," she accepted a job from Ralsky, who owned real estate interest in and around Lansing.

In exchange for Devenow pleading guilty and agreeing to testify against her colleagues, prosecutors agreed to recommend she be sentenced to 15 months to 21 months in federal prison. That's less than the 33 months to 41 months called for by federal sentencing guidelines. The judge hearing the case is free to hand out any sentence as long as it doesn't exceed 41 months, Zuckerman said.

Sentencing is scheduled for February, but that date is likely to be delayed, Zuckerman said. That's because Devenow's penalty depends on her testimony at any trials that may be held. So far nine of the defendants in the case have pleaded not guilty. Trial has not been scheduled. ®

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