Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell announced Friday that the Virginia Supreme Court has upheld the nation’s first felony SPAM conviction. “SPAM” refers to unsolicited bulk email sent by fraudulent means.
In November 2004, Jeremy Jaynes was convicted by a jury in Loudoun County Circuit Court on three counts of violating Virginia’s groundbreaking Anti-Spam Act, which became in law in 2003. This marked the first ever felony conviction in a SPAM case, and the case received international attention.
After convicting the defendant, the same jury sentenced him to serve nine years in jail. The defendant appealed his conviction. In September 2006, the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the constitutionality of Virginia’s Anti-SPAM Statute and upheld the conviction. Now the state Supreme Court has doen the same.
Speaking about the decision, McDonnell remarks, “This is a historic victory in the fight against online crime. SPAM not only clogs email inboxes and destroys productivity, it also defrauds citizens and threatens the online revolution that is so critical to Virginia’s economic prosperity. Thanks to the Virginia Anti-SPAM Act, we now have the tools to go after Spammer’s and put them behind bars.
“I want to specifically thank my predecessor, Jerry Kilgore, for proposing the Anti-SPAM Act, and ensuring its passage. I also want to thank him for securing the initial conviction of Jeremy Jaynes. What was accomplished today would not have been possible without the leadership of Jerry Kilgore. I also want to thank my Computer Crime Section for their steadfast work on this case. Virginia is leading the nation in the effort to keep citizens safe and secure online.”
Former state Attorney General Kilgore adds, “Today’s decision marks a huge step forward in the effort to safeguard the Internet from online criminals. SPAM slows down commerce, fills up inboxes, and entraps innocent citizens. I applaud this decision, and I especially thank the dedicated lawyers in the Office of the Attorney General who began this fight when I was in office, and have successfully completed it today under the direction of Attorney General McDonnell.”
Chuck Curran, AOL’s Chief Counsel for Policy & Regulatory, notes, "We are pleased that the Virginia Supreme Court has upheld Mr. Jaynes’ conviction under the Virginia Computer Crimes Act and we applaud the tireless efforts of Attorney General McDonnell, former Attorney General Kilgore, and their entire prosecutorial team to hold large-scale spammers accountable. In 2003, Attorney General Kilgore and Virginia legislators worked together with the industry to adopt first-in-the-nation felony penalties for junk e-mailers who send large quantities of spam by falsified means. Tough anti-spam laws like Virginia’s provide a critical deterrent for spammers who try to fill e-mail boxes with unwanted and fraudulent solicitations.”
Jaynes was regarded as the eighth-worst spammer in the world on The Spamhaus Project’s Registry of Known Spammer Organizations at the time of his arrest. At that time, prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Computer Crime Section argued to the jury that Jaynes, utilizing AOL’s private computer network, located in Virginia, peddled his products to unsuspecting victims around the world. His global fraud resulted in millions of dollars of profit, which he used to purchase a mansion and a number of homes in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Virginia's Anti-SPAM Act prohibits the sending of unsolicited bulk e-mail by fraudulent means, such as changing the header or routing information to prevent recipients from contacting or determining the identity of the sender. Such conduct is punishable as a class one misdemeanor or as a class six felony if any one of the following conditions applies:
- The volume of Spam transmitted exceeds 10,000 in any 24-hour time period, 100,000 in any 30-day time period, or one million in any one-year time period.
- Revenue generated from specific Spam exceeds $1,000 or total revenue from all Spam transmitted to any ISP exceeds $50,000.
- The defendant knowingly hires, employs, uses or permits any minor to assist in the transition of Spam.
A class six felony is punishable by a one- to five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $2,500, or both. Virginia’s anti-SPAM legislation also includes asset forfeiture provisions to allow law enforcement authorities to seize any assets or proceeds obtained through the illegal Spam operation. It also enhances penalties for violation of Virginia obscenity laws through the sending of illegal e-mails. The legislation authorizes the Attorney General’s Computer Crime Section to investigate and prosecute Spammers if illegal e-mails are sent to, from, or through any computer or computer network located in any Virginia locality.
To learn more about the Computer Crime Unit and Virginia’s groundbreaking anti-SPAM laws, please click on the link below.