By Andy Sullivan
DULLES, Va. (Reuters) - Virginia authorities said on Thursday they had arrested and charged a North Carolina man for sending "spam" e-mail in the first use of a new state law that could bring penalties of up to 20 years in prison.
Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore said Jeremy Jaynes had been arrested earlier Thursday in Raleigh, N.C., on four counts of using fraudulent means to transmit spam.
Kilgore told a news conference that officials were in negotiations for the surrender of a second man, Richard Rutowski, on the same charges.
Jaynes and Rutowski are charged with violating limits on the number of messages a marketer can send and falsifying routing information. Both are illegal under the Virginia law that carries penalties of 1-5 years in prison and fines of up to $2,500 on each count.
The two sent more than 100,000 messages in a 30-day period this past summer touting penny stocks, low mortgage rates and software to erase Internet browsing records, Virginia officials charged.
Jaynes, who uses the alias Gaven Stubberfield, ranks as the eighth-worst spammer in the world, according to the anti-spam watchdog group Spamhaus. Neither man could immediately be reached for comment.
Although the suspects are based in North Carolina, Virginia is asserting jurisdiction because they sent messages through computers located in the state.
Roughly 50 percent of the world's Internet traffic passes through Virginia, home to big Internet companies like Time Warner Inc.'s (NYSE:TWX - news) American Online unit and MCI (Other OTC:WCOEQ - news).
"These criminals are harming businesses in Virginia, and that concerns us," Kilgore told the news conference at AOL headquarters in Dulles, Va., outside Washington.
Spam has grown from a minor annoyance to a major threat to the stability of the Internet, experts say, and now makes up more than half of all e-mail traffic.
AOL now blocks up to 2.4 billion spams each day, a company spokesman said.
At least 36 states have some sort of spam law on the books, and President Bush (news - web sites) is expected to sign the first national measure into law as early as next week.
Several Internet providers, including AOL and EarthLink Inc., have sued spammers for damages, and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer charged a Buffalo man earlier this year with violating identity theft and forgery laws for sending spam. That charge could carry up to seven years in prison.
But Thursday's action was the first time an accused spammer was charged under specific e-mail laws, Kilgore said.
Some anti-spam activists have criticized the national bill because it would override tougher laws in states like California and Utah, which require online marketers to get explicit permission before sending e-mail.
Kilgore said Virginia's anti-spam measure, which went into effect on July 1, will not be affected by the national law.
Virginia's computer crimes unit would continue to pursue spammers. "They are major targets of my office and I will go after them one by one," he said.
Scott Richter, a bulk e-mailer who ranks No. 3 on Spamhaus's list, told Reuters he was not worried by the arrest because he said he does not break any laws.
"I'm happy to see law enforcement cracking down on people who use false headers and I wish they could get all of them," Richter said. He added that he sends large amounts of commercial e-mail but does not disguise routing information and takes pains to comply with Internet providers' policies.
"I was just at AOL's office a month ago," Richter said.
AOL officials declined to comment on their relationship with Richter or say whether he had visited their offices. "We are aware that he follows the legal developments (of anti-spam laws) very closely," AOL Assistant General Counsel Charles Curran said.
may him his buddy and all other spammers have their arses spammed in jail