EarthLink Claims Victory in Spam Case

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EarthLink is declaring victory in yet another court battle with two men it accused of running a spam e-mail distribution ring from EarthLink's network.

EarthLink says that Damon DeCrescenzo and David Burstyn agreed to a court order that requires them to stop sending spam and to pay an undisclosed cash settlement to EarthLink. The announcement is just the latest court victory for a major ISP against those accused of sending spam, and brings to a close a case that began in August 2003.

The company calls the agreements a great development in its ongoing battle against unsolicited commercial e-mail and says the cash settlement was "substantial," though EarthLink is bound by the legal agreement to not provide details on the size of the payment, says Larry Slovensky, assistant general counsel for EarthLink.

Alabama Spam Ring

Burstyn and DeCrescenzo were part of a large, multistate spam operation that EarthLink investigators dubbed the "Alabama Spam Ring," after the group's penchant for using phone lines in the Birmingham, Alabama, area to connect to dial-up EarthLink Internet accounts and send out spam.

In a lawsuit filed in August in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, EarthLink detailed a sophisticated spam operation that used phone lines, falsified names and addresses, and shell companies to send out more than 250 million spam messages advertising Viagra, herbal supplements, and adult dating services. The group used stolen or forged credit cards and engaged in identity theft to set up EarthLink accounts that were then used to send spam, EarthLink says.

In an amended lawsuit filed in February, EarthLink named 16 individuals as part of the ring, including Burstyn and DeCrescenzo, claiming that the group violated U.S. federal and state laws covering computer fraud, banking fraud, and electronic communications privacy. The lawsuit identified individuals and corporations in Florida, California, Tennessee, Michigan, and Nevada.

Burstyn and DeCrescenzo have settled their case with EarthLink, but the status of cases against the other defendants is not known. EarthLink declines to comment, citing the ongoing litigation. However, Burstyn and DeCrescenzo have also agreed to provide additional information to EarthLink about issues raised in its lawsuit, Slovensky says, declining to elaborate.

Similar Cases

In May 2003, a district court in Atlanta awarded EarthLink a $16 million settlement against Howard Carmack of Buffalo, New York, also known as the "Buffalo Spammer." EarthLink accused Carmack of sending out more than 800 million spam messages over its network.

In April 2004, Carmack was found guilty by a jury in Erie County, New York, on 14 counts, including charges that he stole the identity of two Buffalo-area residents, which he then used to send out more than 800 million spam messages, the attorney general's office says. He was sentenced to between three and seven years in prison in May 2004.

In that case, EarthLink accused Carmack of using the e-mail accounts he set up using stolen credit card numbers to send out a flood of spam messages, often from accounts registered to family members, that advertised a variety of "get rich quick" schemes, herbal stimulants, and cable television descramblers. The company then turned over evidence it gathered against Carmack to prosecutors for their criminal case against him.

EarthLink declined to comment on whether it will turn over information on the 16 individuals named in the Alabama Spam Ring suit to law enforcement, or whether Burstyn and DeCrescenzo might also face criminal charges. The company always cooperates with law enforcement to the fullest extent possible, says spokesperson Carla Shaw.

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