A Florida man known as the "timeshare spammer" was sentenced to a year in prison on Thursday for clogging in-boxes with millions of unsolicited e-mail messages, in one of the first criminal prosecutions under federal anti-spam laws.
Peter Moshou plead guilty in June to violating the U.S. Can-Spam Act after EarthLink sued him in January. In its suit, EarthLink alleged that Moshou sent millions of junk e-mail messages in 2004 and 2005 offering brokerage services for people interested in selling their timeshares. The suit charged Moshou with numerous Can-Spam violations, including falsifying the "from" field in e-mail addresses, using deceptive subject lines, failing to identify the sender, and failing to provide an electronic unsubscribe option.
In addition to prison time, the court ordered Moshou to pay $120,000 in restitution.
In a separate case, the Internet service provider won a $15.4 million judgment against Florida resident Craig Brockwell and his company, BC Alliance, on Can-Spam charges. According to that suit, Brockwell sent hundreds of thousands of unsolicited e-mails advertising discounted inkjet printer cartridges. The ruling, issued last month, also prevents Brockwell and his company from illegally spamming any Internet user, regardless of the ISP they use.
The cases were among a handful of claims EarthLink filed earlier this year against alleged spammers in California, Florida, Nevada and Washington state. The company has won a number of other spam-related suits, including one against the so-called Alabama spammers in January.
"Both of these cases represent more examples of how civil litigation and legal action can put spammers out of business," Larry Slovensky, an assistant general counsel for EarthLink, said in a statement.
When President Bush signed the Can-Spam Act nearly two years ago, critics were skeptical that it would stem the rising tide of junk e-mail landing in people's in-boxes. But a recent study indicates U.S. computers are relaying far fewer spam messages than they did a year ago. The authors of the report, put out by security software company Sophos, attributed the decline to new legislation and jail sentences for spammers.