Detroit – Spammer Alan Ralsky has pleaded guilty to charges over a stock scam that netted $3 million. He faces up to seven years in prison as a result.
Ralsky, of West Bloomfield, Michigan, admitted a series of wire and mail frauds, money laundering and CAN-SPAM offences.
Throughout 2004 and most of 2005, he and four accomplices used spam emails to create interest in poorly-performing stocks held by individuals in China, claimning the stocks were about to rise – and then sold them when they did.
They used various illegal methods to get round spam-blocking devices, and tricked recipients into opening, and acting on, the advertisements in the spam. These included using falsified “headers” in the e-mail messages, using proxy computers to relay the spam, using falsely registered domain names to send the spam, and also making misrepresentations in the advertising content of some of the underlying e-mail messages.
“Alan Ralsky was at one time the world’s most notorious illegal spammer,” said US Attorney Terrence Berg. “Today Ralsky, his son-in-law Scott Bradley, and three of their co-conspirators stand convicted for their roles in running an international spamming operation that sent billions of illegal e-mail advertisements to pump up Chinese ‘penny’ stocks and then reap profits by causing trades in these same stocks while others bought at the inflated prices.”
Ralsky and his son-in-law Scott K Bradley face sentences of seven and six-and-a-half years respectively, and fines of up to $1m each. John S Bown, of Fresno, California, admitted using a botnet to distribute the spam emails, and is looking at five years in prison and a fine of up to $75,000. Other accomplices, including some in China, are awaiting trial.
The charges follow a three-year investigation, led by the FBI with assistance from the US Postal Inspection Service and IRS-CI.