As more and more spammers are arrested, prosecuted, and sued under state and federal antispam statutes, there's one thing you can count on: Someone somewhere will invariably call the targeted spammer a "spam king."
It seems the bulk e-mail industry has more kings than a pinochle deck. But who is really the king of kings? The following ten spammers are all heavyweight contenders for the crown.
Half of them have done time or are still guests of the federal government. Two are dead. Most of the rest have paid millions in fines to the FTC and/or in damages to private companies.
Which one truly deserves the title of King? Read on to find out.
Aliases: batch1, n1hustler4life
Current Status: Serving 30 Months in Federal Prison
Along with partner Todd Moeller, Vitale was part of the g00dfellas spam gang that specialized in pump-and-dump spam--artificially boosting a worthless company's stock price so insiders can dump the shares at a profit. In July 2008, Vitale pleaded guilty to violating the Federal CAN-SPAM Act by flooding 1.3 million AOL e-mail addresses with spam in the space of a week. Not your typical geek gone bad, Vitale's rap sheet boasted 22 prior convictions. He had a reputation for welshing on his partners--no wonder he got ratted out by a confidential informant working with the U.S. Secret Service. A plea bargain netted Vitale a 30-month sentence and a $180,000 fine. (Partner-in-crime Moeller got 27 months.)
At one point, the Brooklyn-born 28-year-old Vitale boasted about making more than $40,000 a week. Now he'll be making license plates at a federal penitentiary.
Spam Royalty Rank: Lord of License Plates
Alias: Gaven Stubberfield
Current Status: A Free Man
Using a stolen database of more than 90 million AOL customers, Jaynes and his sister Jessica DeGroot pumped out spam 24/7 from their home in Raleigh, North Carolina. They earned $400,000 to $750,000 a month hawking get-rich-quick schemes and "horsey porn" (don't ask). But in spamming AOL subscribers, he trespassed on their servers in Virginia, running afoul of the state's tough antispam statute.
In November 2004, Jaynes was found guilty of sending unsolicited bulk e-mail from falsified addresses and sentenced to nine years in prison. Last month, however, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the law was overly broad and restricted Jayne's First Amendment rights. The 34-year-old is free again to spread his special brand of equine love around the world.
Spam Royalty Rank: Viscount of Virginia
Alias: Fast Eddie
Current Status: Dead by His Own Hand
Few spammers' stories are more senseless or tragic than Davidson's. According to the FBI, Davidson operated a business called Power Promoters that flogged everything from perfumes and watches to penny stocks. In June 2007, Davidson was indicted for violating the CAN-SPAM Act. He plead guilty and was sentenced to 21 months in a minimum security prison in Colorado.
Last July Davidson simply walked out of the prison camp, and forced his wife to pick him up and drive him home. The 35-year-old fugitive then murdered his wife and his three-year-old daughter before turning the gun on himself. His 16-year-old daughter was shot but survived; an 8-month-old son was unharmed. Davidson had served just two months of his 21-month sentence.
Spam Royalty Rank: Dauphin of Despair