A 36-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, just learned of a ten-count indictment filed against his name. The indictment charged Michael Persaud of only wire fraud—ten counts of wire fraud. In addition to the charges related to computer crimes, the federal indictment called for the forfeiture of four computers used to send millions of spam emails to recipients both in the United States and overseas.
Law enforcement in Arizona arrested Persaud in January 2017; he made his first court appearance on February 7, 2017. His first court appearance, an arrangement hearing, marked the public unveiling of the indictment. The indictment, returned December of last year, became accessible to law enforcement after the January arrest, Zachary T. Fardon, US District Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
According to the press release from the USAO of the Northern District of Illinois, numerous officials helped read the indictment. The announcement mentioned Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and two FBI agents. Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of Chicago and R. Justin Tolomeo, Special Agent-in-Charge of Milwaukee FBI Offices.
In 2014, Brian Krebs of Krebs On Security wrote a piece titled “still spamming after all these years.” Naturally, the post covered Persaud—or what researchers knew about him at the time—which was a great deal. AOL sued the man in 1998 for mass-spamming AOL customers. The complaint alleged that American Online INC. received tens-of-thousand of complaints from customers regarding Persaud’s spam.
According to the LA Times:
America Online is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit and is asking the court to order Persaud to stop sending his mass mailings to its customers. Persaud couldn’t be reached for comment.
Persaud forged the aol.com domain name, or Internet address, on e-mail messages so AOL members would believe the solicitations were approved by America Online, the company alleges.
America Online has received tens of thousands of complaints from its subscribers as a result of the messages, and the company has lost customers because of the mailings, the company said in the suit.
Persaud managed remain on the the World’s 10 Worst Spammers list from Spamhaus, a group that monitors spam. Despite constant legal scrutiny and even raids from the FBI, Persaud maintained that his “Snowshoe Spam” fell into the same category as any other email marketing campaign.
According to the most recent indictment, the spam emails are not the only true offense Persaud committed. “He often used false names to register the domains,” the indictment explained. “When some of the networks terminated his lease and denied him access to their networks, Persaud used aliases to contract with other networks.” He used fake names driver’s licenses under the names “Michael Prescott,” “Michael Pearson,” and “Jeff Martinez.” With the fake names and IDs, the indictment explained that he used matching falsified forms of payment—specifically debit cards.
The defendant’s next court date is scheduled for late February. Each wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
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