"Godfather of Spam" Alan Ralsky, mastermind of a fraud campaign that delivered tens of thousands of junk mail messages designed to inflate stock prices, was sentenced Monday to 51 months in prison.
His son-in-law and co-conspirator, Scott Bradley, received 40 months in prison, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) statement.
Prosecutors had accused the pair, who live in West Bloomfield, Mich., of violating federal anti-spam laws by sending emails containing false information that were designed to promote thinly traded "penny" stocks. The defendants purchased large stakes in the stocks, waited for their share prices to be driven up by the spam recipients who believed they were buying hot commodities, and then sold the stocks.
The scam is estimated to have netted nearly $3 million in illicit profits over 18 months in 2004 and 2005.
The two men pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud, committing wire fraud, engaging in money laundering and violating the federal CAN-SPAM Act, which sets guidelines for commercial email distribution. They were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
"The spam emails contained materially false and misleading information or omissions and were created and sent using software programs that made it difficult to trace them back to the conspirators," the DOJ statement said. "...The defendants used various illegal methods in order to maximize the amount of spam that evaded spam-blocking devices and tricked recipients into opening, and acting on, the advertisements in the spam."
These techniques included falsifying header information, using bogus domains to deliver the emails and leveraging proxy computers to disguise the origin of the messages, prosecutors said.
Seven other co-conspirators in the operation also have pleaded guilty, five of whom are expected to be sentenced Tuesday.
A lawyer for Ralsky and Bradley could not be reached for comment.