Original 'Spam King' Pleads Guilty
By Ken Magill
Talk about incorrigible.
After more than a decade and a half of being in and out of the news for being sued for spamming, the original Spam King, Sanford Wallace, has reportedly pleaded guilty to sending more than 27 million spam messages to Facebook users.
Unlike in his other court run-ins, however, this time Wallace faces jail.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Monday that 47-year-old Wallace, currently of Las Vegas, admitted in federal court San Jose, California, to accessing about 500,000 Facebook accounts and sending the unsolicited ads disguised as friend requests in a span of three months.
Wallace is free on bond and scheduled to be sentenced in December. He faces a $250,000 fine and up to three years in prison.
Wallace has a long history of legal troubles for alleged spamming.
In October of 2009, a judge ordered Wallace to pay $711 million to Facebook in a lawsuit over spam sent to its members.
Also in 2009, MySpace was awarded $234 million in a lawsuit against Wallace and business partner Walter Rines.
In June of 2009, Wallace filed for bankruptcy. Previously, Wallace had established a pattern of failing to show up in court.
He also allegedly dabbled in infecting people’s computers.
In May of 2006, a New Hampshire federal district court ordered Wallace to pay more than $4 million he allegedly obtained by downloading spyware onto consumers' computers without their knowledge and duping them into buying purported anti-spyware products.
According to federal officials, Wallace and his company, Smartbot.net, exploited a security hole in Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser to, among other things, cause consumers' computers' CD Rom trays to open automatically and issue a the following warning on their computer screens: "If your cd-rom's open ... you DESPARATELY NEED to rid your system of spyware pop-ups IMMEDIATELY!”
In 1998, Wallace settled a lawsuit with email address provider Bigfoot Partners for undisclosed terms.
In the late 90s Wallace vowed at least twice to go straight.
In 1998, Wallace declared himself reformed and teamed up with Internet lawyer Pete Wellborn as a consultant after Wellborn negotiated a settlement for Internet service provider Earthlink, which resulted in a $2 million judgment against Wallace's company, Cyber Promotions, Philadelphia.
At one time, it was estimated that Cyber Promotions was responsible for as much as a third of spam on the Internet. Before and after launching Cyber Promotions, Wallace was reportedly in the junk-fax business.
In 1997 after a legal settlement with CompuServe, Wallace hatched a scheme to pay Internet service providers to accept and deliver unsolicited, bulk email for his clients. He had teamed up with a man who would turn out to be a long-time business partner, Rines, to launch Global Technology Marketing Inc, or GTMI.
“If this doesn’t work, I’ll change my ways and become an opt-in email marketer,” he vowed.
It didn’t work. He apparently didn’t change. And now he faces a possible prison sentence.
In a 2012 interview, Wellborn reportedly expressed disappointment over Wallace’s apparent inability to reform: “If any of the more recent charges against Sanford are true, it is a sad and disappointing state of affairs,” Wellborn reportedly said. “Like him or not, Sanford is crazy smart and could have been ultra-successful in any variety of legitimate technology ventures.”