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2004-11-07 15:23:24

Internet Spammer Faces Nine Years Under Tough US Laws

A man who sent millions of junk e-mails to AOL customers in the United States is facing nine years in jail after being convicted under new anti-spamming laws.

The people hired by a certain "snake-like" Nassau "businessman" to spam and attack the US based BahamasB2B servers should take note.

Jeremy Jaynes and his sister Jessica DeGroot, from Leeburg, Virginia, were convicted on three counts each of sending e-mails with fraudulent and untraceable routing information.

It was the first felony prosecution of internet spam distributors in the US. The jury recommended that Jaynes, 30, be sentenced to nine years in prison and DeGroot, 28, a fine of $7,500.

A third defendant, Richard Rutkowski, 30, was acquitted. All three defendants live in or around Raleigh, North Carolina.

Virginia prosecuted the case under a law that took effect last year which bars people from sending bulk e-mail that is unsolicited and masks its origin. AOL, a Time Warner subsidiary, is based in the state.

Jaynes and DeGroot used the internet to peddle junk e-mails like a "FedEx refund processor" that supposedly allowed people to earn $75 an hour working from home.

In one month alone, Jaynes received 10,000 credit card orders, each for $39.95, for the processor. "This was just a case of fraud," said prosecutor Gene Fishel. "This is a snake oil salesman in a new format," he said referring to the salesmen of the old Wild West who would sell quack cures for rattle-snake bites and other ills.

Russell McGuire, prosecuting, said that Jaynes amassed a net wealth of $24 million (£13 million) peddling worthless products like the refund processor and others like a "penny stock picker" and an internet history eraser.  

"He's been successful ripping people off all these years," Mr McGuire said.

Prosecutors had asked the jury to impose a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for Jaynes, and to consider some amount of jail time for his sister, whom they acknowledged was less culpable.

David Oblon, representing Jaynes, argued that it was inappropriate for prosecutors to seek what he called an excessive punishment, given that this is the first prosecution under the Virginia law. He also noted that his client, as a North Carolina resident, would have been unaware of the law.

"Nine years is absolutely outrageous when you look at what we do to people convicted of crimes like robbery and rape," he added.

When Jaynes and DeGroot are formally sentenced in February, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Horne will have the option of reducing the jury's sentence or leaving it intact. He cannot increase it. The judge has also not yet ruled on an earlier motion asking that the cases be dismissed.

He said during the trial that he had a hard time allowing the prosecution of DeGroot and Rutkowski to go forward to the jury. Mr Oblon said that Jaynes "is convinced of his innocence" and expected that the conviction would eventually be set aside.

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