The Spamhaus Project


ROKSO Spammer Robert Soloway Arrested

by The Spamhaus TeamMay 30, 20073 minutes reading time

On May 30, 2007, one of the most persistent professional spammers, Robert Alan Soloway, was indicted by a grand jury in Seattle, Washington, on charges that include fraud, money laundering, and identity theft. The indictment followed a years-long joint investigation by the Washington State Attorney General's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Internal Revenue Service Department of Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). Robert Alan Soloway has been a long term nuisance on the internet. He has been sending enormous amounts of spam for years, filling mailboxes and mail servers with unsolicited and unwanted junk email. In addition, he has fraudulently marketed his spam services to others as legitimate 'opt-in' services when they were anything but that, duping innocent users and then failing to provide promised customer support or refunds. Because Soloway spammed through hijacked computers and open proxies, he has repeatedly violated both the Computer Abuse and Fraud Act of 1984 and the CAN-SPAM law of 2003.

Soloway first appeared in the Spamhaus Block List (SBL) in 2001. In 2003, he was listed on Spamhaus's Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO), a list of the world's "worst of the worst" criminal spammers. Spamhaus spamtraps continued to receive spam solicitations from Soloway advertising his services through the weekend before today's indictment.

Soloway's violations of the U.S. CAN-SPAM law and various state anti-spam laws resulted in his being sued successfully by a number of plaintiffs, including Microsoft Corporation and Robert Braver, owner of an Oklahoma-based ISP. Both Microsoft and Braver received damage awards of millions of dollars. Soloway never paid these awards, claiming that he lived off of the proceeds of a family trust and was therefore "judgement-proof." In September 2005 in Oklahoma City, after Soloway had fired his lawyers and then failed to appear to represent himself in court, U.S. District Judge Ralph G. Thompson issued a permanent injunction against Soloway, forbidding him to continue sending spam that violated the CAN-SPAM act. Soloway ignored this injunction as well and continued to spam.

Today, Soloway was arrested and brought before the U.S. District Court in Seattle, Washington, where he was indicted on multiple counts of money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud, and identity theft by a federal grand jury. If convicted of all charges, he could theoretically face up to 65 years in prison. Although his custodial sentence if convicted is likely to be substantially less than 65 years, he nonetheless faces a significant stay in the U.S. federal penitentiary system.

Spamhaus commends the Seattle FBI and U.S. Attorney for ensuring that the indictment contains both spam-related and non-spam-related counts, and on preparing an indictment which shows so clearly the profile of the typical spammer's activities, such as fraud, identity theft, and other online deception. Spamhaus recognizes that a successful prosecution requires careful preparation which inevitably takes longer than the victims of the crime wish. Careful preparation is essential in cases involving CAN-SPAM violations, since the CAN-SPAM Act does not yet have extensive case-law to support it.

Spamhaus is also pleased to note that Soloway's arrest warrant recognizes that he is a serious flight risk, in light of his history of bragging that he is judgement-proof and able to move quickly to avoid prosecution. Soloway's ROKSO records provide a detailed picture of his spam operation, including evidence of Soloway hiring virus authors to create networks of spam zombies. Although Soloway's public behavior has been more egregious than many spammers, his spam-related activities are similar to those of many of the world's top spammers. Spamhaus hopes that his prosecution proves to be the first of many such prosecutions.