ATLANTA, Sept. 27 -- EarthLink's (Nasdaq: ELNK - News) investigation into the source of millions of phisher site spam e-mails has helped law enforcement break up an alleged identity theft ring. A federal grand jury in New Haven, Connecticut, returned an indictment on September 20th charging six individuals with identity theft, conspiracy and fraud in connection with e-mail and access devices. The indictment was unsealed today.
"Phisher sites are a dangerous and fast-growing type of identity theft. Searching for the origins of these hoaxes and providing evidence to law enforcement are part of EarthLink's ongoing effort to put spammers out of business and protect the integrity of the Internet," said Lindsey Wegrzyn, EarthLink's Operations Security Enforcement Advisor. "We applaud the actions of Connecticut's U.S. Attorney's Office in bringing the perpetrators of online fraud to justice."
The indictment charges Michael Dolan of North Miami Beach, Florida; Charlie Blount, Jr., of Branford, Connecticut; Keith Riedel of Winter Haven, Florida; Richard D'Andrea of West Haven, Connecticut; Thomas Taylor, Jr. of West Haven, and Daniel Mascia of West Haven, with various counts of conspiracy, fraud in connection with access devices, fraud in connection with electronic mail and aggravated identity theft. Blount, D'Andrea and Taylor entered guilty pleas today.
The charges follow a year-long investigation by EarthLink's abuse team. In May of 2005, EarthLink's abuse team began identifying phisher site e-mails on its network that used a variety of methods including fake "greeting card" e- mails, bogus prize-winning announcements and account cancellation messages to trick consumers into providing credit card numbers and other personal information. EarthLink's abuse team shut down the accounts sending the fraudulent e-mails, and captured evidence about the e-mails' origins for law enforcement.
Phisher site e-mails typically instruct consumers to click on a link to what looks like a real corporate Website and input personally identifying information. Then the fake or "phisher" Website tricks consumers and steals their passwords, e-mail addresses, credit card numbers and other personal information. The phisher site spam ring manipulated the practice by generating different types of e-mail messages in order to appeal to users and lure them to the phisher sites.
EarthLink is committed to pursuing spammers through working with law enforcement and taking spammers to court. Since 1996, the company has sued hundreds of spammers and won more than $200 million in judgments, including two criminal convictions against spammers who received prison sentences for their offenses.