The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday ordered Australian resident Lance Atkinson to pay over US$15.15 million for his role as the leader of what has been called the largest "spam gang" in the world.
Atkinson, aged 26, is a New Zealand citizen currently living in Queensland, according to the FTC. The commission said that he admitted his involvement in the spam network last December. US-based accomplice, Jody Smith, has also agreed to an order to turn over nearly all of his assets to the commission. He forfeits over $800,000 and will also be facing jail time.
The global spam network, under the alias of "Canadian Healthcare", used a team of globally recruited spammers to send billions of email messages deceptively marketing a male-enhancement pill, prescription drugs and a weight-loss pill. The spammers directed consumers to websites operated by an affiliate program called "Affking", falsely claiming that the medications came from a US-licensed pharmacy that dispensed FDA-approved drugs. In fact, the drugs were shipped from India, and were potentially unsafe. A US district court ordered an asset freeze and halt to his spam network's operation last year.
The spammers collected consumers' credit card information and personal data, using false privacy and security assurances to mislead recipients. To date, three million complaints have been lodged against the spammers and Atkinson's Australian-registered company, Inet Ventures Pty Ltd.
Spamhaus, a not-for-profit anti-spam organisation, has identified Atkinson's operations as the largest "spam gang" in the world.