A California man has been convicted on 79 counts of fraud and identity theft after flooding sportswriters’ email accounts with spam. Alan Carlson, 39, sent thousands of vitriolic messages to Philadelphia-based journalists for over a year, and spoofed their email addresses to spam members of the public.
“I still remember the first day I looked in my inbox and found 700 pages of emails,” said Bill Lyon, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist for the last 33 years. “It was a losing battle. The computer helpdesk tried to carpet bomb them but we lost real emails as a result.”
Carlson sent rants and diatribes complaining about the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team and the way in which they were run. He used the journalists email addresses to forward the messages onwards.
“He would send email addresses in my name. People sent me emails saying ‘who are you?’ and ‘leave me alone’,” said Lyon. “When you’ve been doing this job for as long as me reputation is all you have. It became more than annoying.”
The Inquirer contacted the FBI who arrested Carlson in October of 2003. Last week the jury took under two hours to seal his fate. He will face 33 to 41 months in prison and could be ordered to pay a fine up to $250,000 per count for which he was convicted.
“As soon as he was arrested it stopped,” said Lyon. “It was the first time anything like this happened to me. I could have lost the bond and trust with my readers that took years to build.”