Viagra spammer faces two years in jailJanuary 12, 2006
Daniel Lin of West Broomfield, Detroit, has been charged with three other men of sending millions of emails from hacked computers belonging to the Ford Motor Company, Amoco, Unisys, the US Army Information Center, and the Administrative Office of US Courts.
(Jan 17, 2006) Daniel J. Lin, 30, pleaded guilty today to three felony charges, federal prosecutors said. Two of the counts are fraud charges involving millions of unsolicited spam e-mails sent to computer users. The other is possession of a firearm by a felon, for guns discovered when authorities raided Lin's suburban Detroit home. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 16 in U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor.
Daniel J. Lin, Chris Chung, Mark M. Sadek and James J. Lin were charged with sending millions of illegal spam e-mail messages to sell phony diet aids and illegally imported erectile dysfunction medicine.
The gang allegedly sent spam to more than 1 million people. In one instance, the men sought to send more than 5 million spam e-mail messages that were blocked by a German company.
Federal prosecutors charged the four men in 2004 following an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
According to an affidavit, Postal Inspector Karl Hansen consulted Spamhaus records on several occasions to gather data on Lin. He also ran several Google Groups searches and dug up info from the Nanae newsgroup and even contacted some participants by phone. Microsoft provided a CD-ROM filled with spam samples from its infamous spam traps. Anders Henke, an administrator with German ISP Schlund, turned over valuable proxypot evidence.
All this cyber research was corroborated by a physical search in April 2004 of Lin's residence at 7080 Ten Hill Dr. in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Federal agents boxed up all sorts of evidence, including more than a dozen computers, hard drives and modems, product (herbal pills), and thousands of pages of business records. They also seized a half-dozen guns, boxes of ammunition and a "how-to" book on white-collar crime.
The case got widespread notice as the first to be brought nationally by the Justice Department under the CAN-SPAM act, which prohibits deceptive spam e-mails.
The complaint was dismissed in June 2004 as officials said they needed more time to build the case. Federal agents combed through thousands of computer records worldwide, including Canada and Germany, to make the case.
In March 2005, the FTC settled civil charges against Lin and the three men, along with their company, Phoenix Avatar LLC.
The Federal Trade Commission had received more than 10,000 complaints regarding spam sent by the Avatar companies, which sent e-mail using "proxy computers" -- computers owned by other companies that hide the true source of the bulk e-mails.
Through a spam e-mail sent to the FTC, the agency made a test purchase from Avatar and got a "premium diet patch" Jan. 15 that bore a return address of a U.S. post office box in West Bloomfield.
According to government records, the four West Bloomfield men had generated more than $100,000, selling more than 100 orders weekly for at least five months. The weight-loss aids included a $59-a-month herbal weight-loss patch that officials say didn't work.
They were accused of selling the products to people around the world and mailing them from the Birmingham post office in Oakland County. One of the men's shell companies listed its business address as a Detroit restaurant and two nightclubs.
The defendants agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty.
Terry Berg, first assistant U.S. attorney in Detroit, filed court papers Tuesday disclosing that the government had filed three criminal charges against Lin on Tuesday "for plea purposes." The other three men remain under investigation.
Berg and the court confirmed Wednesday a plea date is set for Tuesday. Daniel Lin was separately indicted in October 2004 with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The plea deal will allow Lin to resolve that case as well by pleading guilty to one count of being a felon in possession.
Lin faced up to 5 years on each of the spam counts and up to 10 years on an unrelated gun charge. Under terms of the plea agreement reached with federal prosecutors, Lin faces between two years and 57 months in prison. He also is expected to plead guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm stemming from a previous undisclosed felony in Oakland County.
"This case took a tremendous amount of work to resolve but I believe Mr. Lin is satisfied with the resolution," said Lin's Detroit attorney Juan Mateo. "The reality is he's looking at going to prison."
Lin has stayed out of trouble since he was charged and sought to get on with his life, Mateo said. He was married Nov. 23 in West Bloomfield.
Judge O'Meara gave Lin permission to travel to Hawaii for his honeymoon.
Counterfeit Viagra spammer nets $15,000 per day