Adam Vitale, 26, faces a maximum of 11 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for sending a “massive” number of spam emails to approximately 1.2 million America Online subscribers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
According to prosecutors, between April 2005 and August 2006, Vitale and another defendant, Todd Moeller, corresponded via instant messaging with a confidential informant of the Secret Service, and detailed their spamming operation to him.
During their chat sessions with the informant, Vitale and Moeller “boasted of their ability to send large numbers of spam emails in a manner that would make it nearly impossible for the recipients to trace the spam emails to Vitale and Moeller,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Vitale and Moeller further claimed that they had the ability to get around spam filters and blocking technology employed by AOL.
The informant then offered to pay Vitale and Moeller to deliver spam on his behalf to advertise a product that the informant purportedly wanted to sell. The two men agreed to send the spam in return for half the profits, and between Aug. 17 and Aug. 23, 2005, delivered the unsolicited messages to approximately 1.2 million AOL subscribers.
Investigators determined that Vitale and Moeller used two commonly employed techniques to conceal their identity as the senders of the email. First, they initiated the spam from remote computers, or “zombies,” to make it look like those computers were the source of the messages. Second, they modified the header information to make it appear that other individuals sent the messages.
In entering his guilty plea, Vitale confessed that he had endeavored to send as many spam messages as possible and used “whatever means necessary” to conceal the origin of the spam, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
While Vitale and Moeller reportedly advertised a wide variety of product types in their spam campaigns, including penis enlargement pills, Moeller allegedly told the informant in the case that the most profitable type was spam promoting stocks, from which Moeller claimed to have earned $40,000 a month.
Vitale is scheduled to appear before Judge Denny Chin on Sept. 13 for sentencing. Moeller, a resident of New Jersey, faces the same charges, but has not yet been tried.