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Alan Ralsky

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Country: United States
State: Michigan
Convicted fraudster, spams using hijacked proxies & virus infected PCs and in the past by hijacking mail servers and mail accounts. One of the first people to host spam-websites in China to evade US law. Served years in prison due to stock-fraud spamming, but soon after being released, seemed to get right back into spamming.


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MEDIA: Spam king, Verizon settle lawsuit [28 October 2002]


Spam king, Verizon settle lawsuit
W. Bloomfield man's deal with Internet service limits his reach, but he vows to stay in business
By Joel Kurth / The Detroit News
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WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP -- A landmark lawsuit some hoped would help define the limits of free speech in cyberspace has been settled, sparing a trial for Michigan's most notorious Internet entrepreneur.

Verizon Internet Services announced Monday it has settled its multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Alan M. Ralsky, a West Bloomfield commercial bulk e-mailer who some consider to be among the worst spammers in the world. The deal allows Ralsky to stay in business but shrinks his customer base.

It was the first time Verizon sued a sender of the unsolicited pitches that promise everything from pornography to credit repair. The settlement avoids a trial scheduled for Monday and, observers hope, serves as a deterrent to one of the top annoyances in cyberspace.

"Ralsky is one of the better-known spammers out there," said John Mozena of Grosse Pointe Woods, vice president of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail. "The bigger the spammer that falls, the happier we are. The bigger the stick they're whacked with, the happier we are. It's nothing personal, we just don't appreciate getting their e-mails and want them to stop."

The settlement permanently bars Ralsky and his company, Additional Benefits LLC, from sending bulk e-mails on any of Verizon's networks, which reach 1.64 million customers in 40 states.

Ralsky also must pay the corporation an undisclosed fine.

But a defiant Ralsky said he will continue sending bulk e-mails.

Verizon's suit in the U.S. District Court's Eastern Virginia District had sought to shut him down, seeking as much as $37 million on allegations Ralsky twice paralyzed its network in 2000 by sending millions of e-mails for diet pills, on-line gambling and other offers.

"It didn't happen," said Ralsky, 57, denying that he sent millions of e-mails on Verizon's networks. "I admit no liability ... and I don't know if any message has been sent at all (with the settlement.)"

Ralsky calls unsolicited e-mail the "best business in the world," considers "spam" a dirty word that doesn't describe his honest venture and proudly notes that he doesn't send offers for pornography or messages to those who indicate they don't want them.

He gravitated to the business in the late-1990s while recovering from bankruptcy and the loss of his insurance license.

Neither Ralsky nor Verizon would comment extensively on the settlement, citing confidentiality agreements. But Bobbi Henson, a spokeswoman for the Reston, Va.-based Verizon, called it a significant case. "People should see this and think twice about sending spam on our lines."

The case was closely watched because many had hoped it would set a legal precedent in the often-murky world of cyber law. Legislators in about 25 states have passed laws restricting spam, but few cases have gone to trial to test them. And while the European Union has passed a ban on the e-mails that goes into effect next year, U.S. lawmakers have yet to approve any restrictions.

"We're still waiting for the quintessential case to come along and answer all the constitutional and First Amendment issues," said Matthew Halpin, a Grosse Pointe Farms attorney and director of the Cyber Law USA Web site. "Some had thought this would be the one."

The case came as anti-spam efforts and indignation heated up. Just last year, spam accounted for 8 percent of all e-mail on the Internet. Now, it makes up 36 percent, according to a study by Brightmail, a San Francisco company.

"The hope is that cases like (Ralsky's) will be a deterrent," said Kate Dean, spokeswoman for the Telecommunications Research and Action Center of Washington, D.C. "You want to make it expensive for people to be a spammer. Right now, there's no barrier because it's so cheap. If you were to send this stuff over the mail, it would cost a heck of a lot more money. With e-mails, it's pennies."

Her group joined other consumer agencies this month in urging the Federal Trade Commission to ban all spam by broadening its definition of deceptive advertising.

In February, the agency made combatting unsolicited e-mail a high priority, but now only targets those who send messages with outright false promises or misleading ads. Federal lawyers have brought legal action against 40 spammers, said Brian Huseman, staff attorney for the agency.

Dean's group wants to take enforcement a step further, declaring that all unwanted messages that camouflage their origin -- most of spam -- are deceptive and thus illegal.
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A Spammer"I admit no liability ... and I don't know if any message has been sent at all (with the settlement.)"
Alan M. Ralsky,
commercial bulk e-mailer
Link to full Detroit News article at castlecops.com
Related story


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