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Virginia indicts two on spam felony charges

From Brad Wright

Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, front, along with some members of his Computer Crime Unit Task Force, announces the felony charges and arrest for sending spam e-mail.
Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, front, along with some members of his Computer Crime Unit Task Force, announces the indictments.

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DULLES, Virginia (CNN) -- Virginia authorities Thursday announced felony charges against two men accused of violating the state's new anti-spam law. They described the indictments as the first of their kind.

Jeremy Jaynes and Richard Rutowski, both of North Carolina, were charged with sending thousands of unsolicited e-mails bearing falsified routing information. The e-mails hawked investments, mortgage information and software. Many of the servers that processed the e-mails are based in Virginia.

Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said his office was working with North Carolina authorities to extradite the two men to Loudon County, Virginia.

Virginia has a particular interest in limiting spam because AOL and other Internet service providers are based in the state.

Kilgore announced the indictment at the headquarters of Internet service provider America Online, which is in Loudon County.

E-mail spam -- unsolicited ads -- can clog individual mailboxes as well as cause damage to entire computer systems when sent in massive amounts.

"This is a huge message for the spammers operating around the United States and around the world," Kilgore said. "We are hopeful that with prosecutions like this that we will be able to reduce the amount of spam coming into homes around Virginia and around the United States."

Kilgore, a Republican who is considered his party's leading contender for Virginia's next gubernatorial race, helped to write the new spam law, which took effect July 1.

"The indictment alleges that the defendants falsified or forged electronic mail transmission information or other routing information in connection with the transmission of this spam," Kilgore said.

"This falsification prevents the receiver from knowing who sent this spam or from contacting them through the 'from' address of the e-mail. By falsifying this routing information, it makes this e-mail a crime in Virginia, and the volume that was sent during this period elevates this charge to a felony charge."

Sending unsolicited bulk e-mails by fraudulent means is a misdemeanor in Virginia, but the violations become felonies if:

• The volume of spam transmitted exceeds 10,000 in any 24-hour period, 100,000 in any 30-day period or 1 million in any one-year period.

• Revenue generated from specific spam ads exceeds $1,000 or total revenue from all spam transmitted to any Internet service provider exceeds $50,000.

• The defendant knowingly uses a minor to assist in the transmission of spam.

Authorities said Jeremy Jaynes was arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Authorities said Jeremy Jaynes was arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Lisa Hicks-Thomas, director of Virginia's Computer Crimes Unit, described the type of spam allegedly sent out by the two men:

"The spam advertised several different schemes -- some of which were penny-picker stock schemes, also mortgage interest rate advertisements and, most notably, an Internet history eraser so that the person could conceivably go in and erase the history of where they had been on the Internet," she said.

If convicted on all counts, Jaynes and Rutowski could each face up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

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