A federal grand jury in Phoenix, Ariz. has indicted three people on charges of violating the federal Can-Spam Act for operating a pornographic spam business.

Jennifer Clason, 32, formerly of Tempe Ariz., Jeffrey Kilbride, 39, of Venice, Calif., and James Schaffer, 39, of Paradise Valley, Ariz., were each indicted on two counts of fraud and related activity under the federal anti-spam law, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. They also face other federal obscenity, money laundering and conspiracy charges.

According to the indictment, the trio conspired to send spam emails that advertised pornographic web sites in order to earn commissions for directing web traffic to the sites. The emails included embedded graphic images.

Federal authorities estimate that tens of millions of computer users may have received spam from the defendants. Spamhaus, a nonprofit that tracks data on spammers, listed the trio's operation as one of the 200 largest in the world, according to the DOJ.

If convicted, Kilbride and Schaffer each face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the money laundering charge and five years in prison on the obscenity charges. All three defendants also face a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each of the spamming and criminal conspiracy charges.

A fourth defendant, Andrew Ellifson, 31, of Scottsdale, Ariz., pleaded guilty in February to one count of spamming and one count of criminal conspiracy. In a plea agreement Thursday, he agreed to forfeit money obtained in the commission of those crimes.

He is accused of helping operate the network used to send emails from the spam operation. He faces five years in prison.

www.usdoj.gov