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Alleged operators of HerbalKing spam gang indicted

The FTC on Tuesday dropped the hammer on a group of alleged spammers who are notorious in the antispam community for their persistence and prolificness. The commission was successful in getting a U.S. District Court to indict two members of the HerbalKing spam gang, and also got the court to issue an injunction freezing the men’s assets. The FTC alleges that the two defendants, Lance Atkinson and Jody Smith, were responsible for sending billions of spam messages advertising the usual array of herbal remedies, male enhancement products and prescription drugs. From the commission’s announcement of the indictment:

The Federal Trade Commission has received more than three million complaints about spam messages connected to this operation, and estimates that it may be responsible for sending billions of illegal spam messages. At the request of the FTC, the court has issued a temporary injunction prohibiting defendants from spamming and making false product claims, and has frozen the defendants’ assets to preserve them for consumer redress pending trial. Authorities in New Zealand also have taken legal action, working in tandem with the FTC.

According to papers filed with the court, the defendants deceptively marketed a variety of products through spam messages, including a male-enhancement pill, prescription drugs and a weight-loss pill.

Spamhaus, the organization that tracks spammers and keeps a list of all the known spammers online, said that the HerbalKing group had been the most prolific spammers in the world for most of 2007 and 2008 and had been working since 2005. The group also said that despite the indictments and asset seizures on Tuesday, the gang’s spam activities have continued unabated in the last 24 hours, most likely because much of the operation is automated through the use of botnets. And, Spamhaus officials said, “Spammers such as this gang and the Russians, Indians and others they work with care little about the law. Spamhaus notes that most will not quit spamming until they are behind bars.”

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