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Facebook Spammer Surrenders To FBI

August 5, 2011

One of the Internet’s first spammers has been criminally charged for hacking more than half a million Facebook accounts, stealing personal information, and sending millions of unwanted advertisements through their accounts.

Self-described spam king Sanford Wallace surrendered to FBI Friday after being indicted for the crimes. Now 43, Wallace first figured out a way to evade Facebook’s spam filters and employ a script that would automatically log into the accounts he had compromised and retrieve a list of all the users’ friends and then post junk messages on their walls, according to the indictment filed in federal court in San Jose, CA.

“Wallace continued his spamming scheme by storing the information provided by Facebook users, such as email addresses and passwords,” the indictment stated. “Wallace then used the user’s email address and password to log into Facebook in order to continue to send spam messages.”

He was indicted by a grand jury on three counts of intentional damage to a protected computer and two counts of criminal contempt, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California. If convicted on all charges, Wallace could face up to 40 years in prison with fines of more than $2 million.

Wallace was ordered by US District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in 2009 to not access Facebook, and was charged with violating that order by accessing the social network on an airline flight from Las Vegas to New York in April 2009. He had also maintained an account under the name David Sinful-Saturdays Fredericks earlier this year.

Judge Fogel awarded Facebook $711 million against Wallace in October 2009 for violating the Can-Spam Act, which bans “false and misleading” marketing emails. At that time, Fogel also found Wallace “willfully violated” a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction issued in the case and referred the matter to the US Attorney’s Office for prosecution of criminal contempt.

Wallace has earned the nicknames “Spamford” and “Spam King” for his past role as head of CyberPromotions, a firm responsible for sending millions and millions of junk emails on a daily basis during the 1990s.

In May 2008, Wallace was ordered along with a co-defendant to pay MySpace.com $234 million. He has also been sued by the Federal Trade Commission, AOL and Concentric Network. In May 2006, Wallace and his company Smartbot.net were ordered by a federal court to turn over $4.1 million.

In the latest charges, Wallace made an initial appearance before the judge and then was released on $100,000 bail. He was ordered to not access Facebook or MySpace.

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