US shuts down operation blamed for a third of all spam emails
"American investigators have shut down an international criminal network they claim is responsible for up to a third of all spam emails on the internet.
After a long investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and police in other countries, courts in Chicago and New Zealand ordered the assets of Australia-based New Zealander Lance Atkinson and Texas-based Jody Smith to be frozen. They are accused of making millions of dollars by bombarding people with emails offering non-regulated drugs and fake medical remedies.
The duo are believed to be part of a group called the HerbalKing gang, who have sent enormous numbers of spam messages over the past three years.
"The defendants recruited spammers around the world to send billions of spam messages," the FTC said in a statement. "Their enterprise included participants in Australia, New Zealand, China, Russia, Canada and the United States."
According to FTC officials, the duo used spam emails to promote drugs for sexual dysfunction, penis enlargement and weight loss - which were sold without a licence or did not live up to their claims.
Atkinson and Smith are believed to have used a string of up to 35,000 hacked computers - known as a "botnet" - around the world to send as many as 10bn spam messages a day. Three million complaints have been made about their messages."