There is justice in the world after all. After five years and eight million spam e-mails, two Mizzou alumni, brothers Amir and Osmaan Shah, have been convicted of jamming people's in-boxes with ads for cheap cameras and tooth-whiteners. (Perhaps there is a connection.)
During their spamming career, which lasted from January of 2004 until they were busted in April of 2009, the Shahs took in upwards of $4 million under the auspices of their company i2o. Which, disturbingly, means there is money to be made in those penis-enhancement e-mails after all.
The Shahs targeted college students and alumni: They developed a computer program that would invade the systems of colleges and universities (including their alma mater) and illegally harvest hundreds of thousands of student e-mail addresses. In their spam messages, they would pretend to be representatives of the spamee's college.
They were aided in this enterprise by Paul Zucker of Wayne, New Jersey, who provided the Shah brothers with proxy e-mail addresses and the program that actually sent the spam messages. Zucker pleaded guilty on July 13.
The Shahs haven't been sentenced yet, but they could serve as many as eight years in federal prison -- without parole. Zucker could get five years. The Shahs have already afreed to forfeit $78,980, properties in St. Louis and Columbia valued at $344,250, two cars and several Internet domain names.
Update: The Shahs pleaded guilty to a 2009 indictment on charges of conspiracy. They also pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting each other to access a protected computer without authorization and transmit commercial e-mails with the intent to deceive the recipients about their origin.
"Illegal spam campaigns create significant problems for computer networks," Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a news release. "Those who seek to profit by spamming will be held accountable."
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