A Review Of Brian McWilliams’s Spam Kings

Brian McWilliams has put together a book suitable for shelving next to The DaVinci Code and the Bat Book, with Spam Kings – The Real Story Behind the High-Rolling Hucksters Pushing Porn, Pills, and @*#?% Enlargements.

Detailing the exploits of the biggest spammers of the late nineties and new millennium, Spam Kings follows their trail down to the lunch menu, with the underworld’s anti-spam fighters of the day taking the order. The book details the comings and goings of the likes of Sanford Wallace, an early spam king who claimed constitutional authority to send UCE, up to the present day powerhouses such as Ron Scelson and Scott Richter, whose wealth and influence keeps the heat off of them. But the real story is about two individuals, Susan Gunn, of NANAE fame, and David Hawke, who continues to elude the massive AOL lawsuit judgments against him.

The antagonist and protagonist’s paths cross often, but they never seem to directly butt heads. What makes the saga so interesting is that their actions affect each other’s lives in profound ways, exemplifying the intensely close knit nature of the spammer and anti-spam communities that surround them, and sometimes, their disloyalties. Furthermore, the lines between spammer and “anti” sometimes blur beyond natural reason, reflecting the deep knowledge of systems and processes each side attains during their trials and tribulations, and the monetary value of that knowledge in the open (if not seedy) market.

What I found most appealing during the read was the relevancy of events that take place throughout, and the meticulous references to the news of the day. I found myself wondering where I was, how much spam I was getting, and whether I could remember receiving any scurrilous product pitches from the characters within. I am now checking old email archives, just for posterity.

The book also contains an excellent glossary of technical and business terms used throughout, as well as a detailed reference section.

Clearly a publication for both the technology/history buff, as well as the everyday email user still wondering where the heck all those Viagra ads in their inboxes really comes from.


New spam blog

Spamroll is a new blog that aims to provide “pragmatic talk on spam, phishing, and other denizens of the underworld Internet”. Recommended….

The bankruptcy of Scott Richter’s OptinRealBig is obviously big news, but nobody has mentioned Richter’s own Chapter 11 petition, which may end up becoming the main event. Spamroll already knows that Microsoft’s collection of its judgment against Richter and OptinRealBig will be very interesting. One of the reasons why is that Richter will probably have taken some extraordinary steps to protect his assets. Experienced anti-spam litigators have commented that professional spammers are increasingly engaging in asset protection planning, including moving assets offshore. Richter has had years and millions of dollars to devote to quality asset protection planning. As McWilliams has said, the fact that Richter’s father is an attorney and a CPA is significant. On the other hand, Microsoft is a well-funded adversary and, given how it has publicized the litigation, Microsoft is determined to collect this judgment. I expect that Richter’s bankruptcy will generate some very sophisticated litigation.

But I would be surprised if Richter relied on simply moving assets offshore, however. Courts have not hesitated to jail individuals, for years, if necessary, who fail to repatriate large sums of money to satisfy judgments against them. Unless Richter plans on fleeing the jurisdiction, he cannot protect his money for long by simply dumping it offshore. Certainly, Richter could try to just hide money offshore, but that would have criminal consequences. A more practical problem is that Microsoft has ample resources to devote to a forensic accounting of Richter’s bankruptcy estate. It seems unlikely that Richter could successfully hide significant amounts of money from Microsoft for long. In any event, sophisticated asset planning uses techniques besides offshore bank accounts nowadays. It will be interesting to see what tricks Richter has up his sleeves. (See eplaw.us/news/2005/03/31#scott_richter_declares for more links, and some original documents.)

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