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- Madra Rua
November 12, 2004, 12:41 am
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Two Found Guilty in Nation's First Felony Spam Conviction
November 3, 2004
Associated Press Writer
LEESBURG, Virginia (AP) _ A brother and sister who sent junk e-mail to
millions of America Online customers were convicted Wednesday in the
first felony prosecution of Internet spam distributors in the United
Jurors recommended that Jeremy Jaynes, 30, be sentenced to nine years
in prison and fined Jessica DeGroot, 28, $7,500 (euro5,880) after
convicting them of three counts each of sending e-mails with
fraudulent and untraceable routing information.
A third defendant, Richard Rutkowski, 30, was acquitted after
deliberations of 1 1/2 days. All three defendants live in the Raleigh,
North Carolina, area.
Prosecutors compared Jaynes and DeGroot to modern-day snake oil
salesmen who use the Internet to peddle junk like a ``FedEx refund
processor'' that supposedly allowed people to earn $75 (euro59) an
hour working from home.
In one month alone, Jaynes received 10,000 credit card orders, each
for $39.95 (euro31.32), for the processor.
``This was just a case of fraud,'' said prosecutor Gene Fishel. ``This
is a snake oil salesman in a new format.''
Prosecutor Russell McGuire said Jaynes amassed a net wealth of $24
million (euro18.8 million) peddling worthless products like the refund
processor and other products like a ``penny stock picker'' and an
Internet history eraser.
``He's been successful ripping people off all these years,'' McGuire
Prosecutors had asked the jury to impose a maximum sentence of 15
years in prison for Jaynes, and to consider some amount of jail time
for his sister, whom they acknowledged was less culpabale.
Defense lawyers asked jurors to spare the defendants prison terms.
David Oblon, representing Jaynes, argued that it was inappropriate for
prosecutors to seek what he called an excessive punishment, given that
this is the first prosecution under the Virginia law. He also noted
that his client, a North Carolina resident, would have been unaware of
the Virginia law.
Oblon called the jury's recommendation of nine years in prison
``Nine years is absolutely outrageous when you look at what we do to
people convicted of crimes like robbery and rape,'' Oblon said.
When Jaynes and DeGroot are formally sentenced in February, Circuit
Court Judge Thomas Horne will have the option of reducing the jury's
sentence or leaving it intact. He cannot increase it.
Horne also has not yet ruled on an earlier motion asking that the
cases be dismissed. He said during the trial that he had a hard time
allowing the prosecution of DeGroot and Rutkowski to go forward to the
The attorney Oblon said Jaynes ``is convinced of his innocence'' and
he expects the conviction will eventually be set aside.
Virginia prosecuted the case under a law that took effect last year
which bars people from sending bulk e-mail that is unsolicited and
masks its origin. AOL, which is based in Dulles, Virginia, is a unit
of New York-based Time Warner Inc.
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