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Ralsky Indicted, CAN-SPAM is Still Useless

Well, I read the indictment (available here from Spamhaus.) It's a long litany of criminal behavior, primarily pump and dump stock fraud of a long list of penny stocks from the US and China. Ralsky is described as the "chief executive officer and overall leader" of the scheme, and it goes on to list fifteen others, including "mailer 2", an unindicted co-conspirator in Seattle who is presumably Robert Soloway.

The thing that strikes me about this indictment is that although it includes a lot of CAN SPAM charges, everything Ralsky and Co. did was already illegal under conventional fraud and computer tampering laws. Lying about who you are to tout worthless stock is already illegal, hijacking other people's computers is illegal, and collecting the money for fraudulent actions is illegal, too. Sure, they're throwing the book at them for CAN SPAM violations about fraudulent mail headers and domain registrations, but by my reading, they'd have just as strong a case without CAN SPAM, and the conventional charges will be a lot easier to explain to a judge and a jury.

So it's a relief that Ralsky, who spent the better part of a decade as the country's highest profile spammer, is finally headed back to jail. (He's been there before, for insurance fraud.) But it's yet another reminder that the US needs effective anti-spam laws, and CAN SPAM isn't one.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker

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