Jailed AlterNIC cofounder Eugene Kashpureff is strapped for cash and his business partner has set up a legal fund for him.
Kashpureff, arrested on October 31, is slated for an extradition hearing December 12 to face FBI charges of wire and computer fraud.
Not only has Kashpureff incurred legal fees in Canada, where he has been imprisoned since his arrest, but if extradition hearings are successful, he also will face a hefty bill in the United States, unless he finds someone to represent him for free, his acquaintances said.
Kashpureff is "broke," said Richard Sexton, who has worked with Kashpureff. "He's probably even broker than broke. He owes me money."
Kashpureff also has four children who have moved from Washington to Toronto to be closer to their father.
The charges that Kashpureff is facing stem back to a "protest" Kashpureff waged in July in which he modified the master database that acts as a phone directory for the Internet so that many surfers who tried to get to "internic.net" were instead directed to the AlterNIC page at "www.alternic.net." Kashpureff said he did this to bring attention to the AlterNIC, set up as an alternative to the powerful InterNIC.
The ruse apparently worked, at least in some quarters.
But it also landed him in a lot of hot water. To top it off, Kashpureff did this not once, but twice--a move that many say landed him in his current predicament.
While some saw him as a hero, others saw him as a vandal who tampered with some of the Internet's fundamental protocols in order to thumb his nose at Network Solutions, which runs the InterNIC.
But while even some of his associates are critical of him, they also wonder why the government is putting so many resources in going after what they say amounted to a relatively harmless ploy: anyone who was redirected could have gone to the InterNIC page with just another click.
"They're making a federal case out of this--literally," Sexton said. "Did he have it coming? Yeah, probably. Are they making too much of it? Yeah, probably. I think they're both wrong. I think Eugene is wrong to do what he did. I think the government is wrong to do what they're doing. They're making a martyr out of him.
"I think they're overreacting," he said. "I can see why they're overreacting. He's egged them on."
Plus, Sexton added, Kashpureff's friends are worried about his children and their fate.