Application security, Threat Management

‘Spam King of Seattle’ Soloway pleads guilty

Updated Monday, March 17 at 8:38 p.m. EST

Robert Alan Soloway, the so-called "spam king," pleaded guilty on Friday after prosecutors accused him of delivering millions of unwanted junk mail messages to victims across the world.

Soloway, 28, struck a plea deal two weeks before he was scheduled to go to trial in the U.S. District Court in Seattle on a 40-count indictment that included charges of fraud, identity theft and money laundering.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop all of the ID theft charges and all but one of the spam-related charges.

"I think this is a reasonable resolution to the case," his Seattle-based attorney, Richard Troberman, told on Monday. "I think this represents much more closely what Mr. Soloway actually did."

Soloway - who was arrested last May - ended up admitting to felony mail fraud, fraud related to email, and failure to file a tax return in 2005.

"Soloway has been a long-term nuisance on the internet," spam-tracking nonprofit The Spamhaus Project wrote on its website. "He has been sending enormous amounts of spam for years, filling mailboxes and mail servers with unsolicited and unwanted junk mail. In addition, he has fraudulently marketed his spam services to others as legitimate ‘opt-in' services when they were anything but that."

Soloway, who authorities allege made at least $300,000 through his spamming business, Newport Internet Marketing Corp., faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in June. At that time, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman will decide how much he must pay in fines and restitution to victims. Soloway has agreed to discuss his financial assets while undergoing a lie detector test, a common requirement in such cases, his attorney said.

Authorities have alleged that Soloway used botnets, or networks of compromised computers, to send his spam, but this was never mentioned in the plea agreement and there is no evidence of it, Troberman said.

Soloway has avoided paying fines in the past, even though he has lost two civil lawsuits that accused him of violating the federal CAN-SPAM Act. Two years ago, Microsoft won a $7 million decision after accusing Soloway of using its MSN and Hotmail services to deliver spam, and Robert Braver, owner of an Oklahoma-based internet service provider, won a $10 million judgment against him.

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