Man allegedly responsible for a third of your spam e-mail arraigned
December 3rd, 2010
11:09 PM ET

Man allegedly responsible for a third of your spam e-mail arraigned

[Updated at 11:00 p.m.] Oleg Nikolaenko, a Russian man the FBI believes has been responsible for one-third of the spam in your inbox, pleaded not guilty Friday in federal court in Wisconsin.

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[Posted at 10:20 a.m.] A Russian man the FBI believes has been responsible for one-third of the spam you get in your inbox is scheduled to be arraigned in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, court Monday.

According to court documents and FBI affidavits, researchers began tracking down the "Mega-D" spam automated botnet as a prime source of selling counterfeit goods, and the mastermind of it all is Oleg Nikolaenko.

"'Mega-D" was likely the largest botnet in the world, accounting for 32% of all spam," the court documents said. "Security researchers estimated that the botnet was capable of sending ten billion spam email messages a day.”

The documents show the scope of the counterfeit ring and the authorities' attempts to track down Nikolaenko.

A glimpse into how much Nikolaenko's operation may have made can be seen in court documents that allege that he received a payment of  $459,098.47 between June 4 and December 5, 2007, resulting from e-mails for those peddling everything from advertised erectile dysfunction drugs, other counterfeit prescriptions, "herbal remedies" and even fake Rolex watches.

A break in finding the alleged mastermind was one of those watches. The path to Nikolaenko began when a seller of counterfeit Rolexes told authorities after he was arrested that he paid more than $2 million working with spammers to sell his product. He gave them information that resulted in a trail of information that led officials across several continents, to different e-mail addresses and websites and, eventually, back to Nikolaenko.

FBI agents and the Federal Trade Commission had been monitoring him since at least 2007, according to documents. That included two trips to the U.S. last year. And their big nab came when he went to Las Vegas, Nevada, for an auto show. He was arrested on November 4.

Christopher Van Wagner, Nikolaenko's lawyer, could not be reached immediately for comment. But he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that so far, the charges against his client are only accusations.

"We're prepared to present a rigorous defense," he said.

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Filed under: Crime • Russia • Technology • Wisconsin
soundoff (498 Responses)
  1. Larry

    Every computer crime for which we have a law?

    December 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. AaronS

    If this is true, he must, of course, be shot. Then hanged. Later electrocuted. And finally drowned.

    December 3, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • jorge washingsen

      Hire him to catch Assange.

      December 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Trash

    Stupid end users

    December 3, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rich

    Oleg, поздравления!

    December 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Daryn

    Wait, my new Molex watch is a fake? Does that mean this bottle of Niagra won't help me in bed? It's getting to the point where you just can't trust the spam that hits your email inbox! Well, I'm joining the anti-spam website I just got an email about! All you have to do is give them your social security and credit card numbers and they make sure your money won't be stolen by anyone else! But I did just get an email letting me buy a genuine Nambergini for pennies on the dollar...which I will buy once my Nigerian friends fill up my bank account!

    December 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kenny

    For all you people that do not want your spam, send it to me. I have been out of work for 2 years and I learned 32 ways to cook spam after unemployement ran out.

    December 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. stuckup1

    Please, people! Spam is a HORMEL product, the Pride of Rochester, Minnesota! Keep Armour out of this, they make "potted meat food product". No comparisons! I do hope this spammer sizzles when he hits the pan!

    December 3, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Fubarus

    This might seem a little off topic but......

    If they can catch this guy ... why can't they stop the fake postings in the CNN comments!!??

    December 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Shep

    Feed the other inmates Erectile Dysfunction & male enhancement drugs & let the mingle w/ this guy in the showers.

    December 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. pete

    why does everyone hate spam so much?....it's not that bad, for breakfast anyways....

    December 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      It pretends to be valid business orders or inquiries, and you can't just filter those out if you are running a business. So it takes an extra half hour's work every day to check and discard them. And they also spoof your email address and make people think your business is the culprit. Personally my life has been wasted has been much over the last 20 years or so, that I'd like to see deceitful spamming organizers executed.

      December 3, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Any loss of human space exploration

    Is fine should be equal to the cost of one third of the bandwidth of the planet. 🙂 That should take him a while to pay off. As for all the other nasty things you people wanted to you may want to see a psychiatrist for some of these urges.

    December 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Any loss of human space exploration

      Should have been "people wanted to do."

      December 3, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Allen

      but can-spam took care of this, no? can we get our money back?

      December 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texas Pete

      For a punishment, he should be forced to eat 5 lbs of spam every day for a year. And then he can start his prison term.

      December 3, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Morbo

      KHAN!!!

      December 3, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Willy48507

      Sentence Him to 2 Nights alone with Opra

      December 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven P

      Morbo wrote: "KHAN!!!"

      Laugh out loud funny!!

      December 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay

      I like the Idea, Texas Pete, although you should add to that that he should have to eat spam in some form at least once a day during his prison term as well.

      December 3, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Anyone that has the competency required to operate and maintain a botnet of this scale needs to hook up with Julian Assange of wikileaks and do some actual good in this world.

      Don't kill exceptional human beings, convince them to work for you. ; )

      December 4, 2010 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian Macker

      If you think Julian Assange is a good guy in attacking US diplomacy then you don't know much about the history of the world before the US started walking around with the big stick. If he really was a good guy he would have undermined the diplomacy of Russia or China, who combined have murdered 100 million people, and run country sized prison systems called dictatorships. The kind of countries the US taxes me to protect foreigners like Assange from.

      December 4, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Smurf

      This guy is a misguided genius.
      The FBI should use him to all our advantage and have him destroy the botnet spam circuits.
      The FBI has done it before.

      December 4, 2010 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  12. pete

    I hope they get that Nigerian guy next...

    December 3, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • jorge washingsen

      Yeh I don't think there is but one,he sounds the same every time.

      December 3, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • drNO

      The county of Lago should be delisted from the 13 root dns servers in the United States. No more B S from that B S country.

      December 3, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JIMIJONI

      Very funny.

      December 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • capcity

      yes, get the Nigerian guy next!

      lets put this guy on a tanker ship off the coast of Somalia and see what happens...

      December 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al Beritebak

      Hello my dears mwahahaha

      December 3, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • whgage

      Wait...you mean I didn't win all that money?

      December 3, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Esquimalbuyingice

      You guys are all fools!
      I was contacted by the Nigerian Oil Minister and he assures me that I will be receiving $20 million dollars.

      I'm on my way to the bank to collect the money.

      December 3, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nigerian Guy

      I'll see you there.

      December 3, 2010 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • mahdeealoo

      I got him good. I wrote back and said, "I will set up a private account just for you to put the money in and here is the number." Bogus, of course, just like the spam-a-lot.

      December 3, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • mahdeealoo

      Oh, yea, I haven't gotten a reply yet and that was 3 years ago. The account is still empty, dang.

      December 3, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Noeternal

      haha yes the Nigerians. I was *this* close to getting one of their bank accounts....swindle the swindlers I say.

      December 4, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. Thatguy371

    This jerk is some piece of work. Hope he gets many many nights with his cellmates Lunk and Loaf trading him back and forth. He certainly deserves it.

    December 3, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kenneth

    Perhaps a just sentence would be a one second imprisonment for each spam message he sent.

    December 3, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      I'm thinking more along the line of a life sentence cleaning spam and viruses from PC's

      December 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maggie

      I did the math, and assuming just three years of spamming (from 2007 when they started watching him till 2010 when he was arrested, although he was doing it for years before they started watching him), and the total I came up with is 347,222 years. Sounds like a good punishment to me. Although I agree with the person who said he should have to eat Spam every day that he is in prison, although I would make it the ONLY food that he would get to eat.

      December 3, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Peter Q Wolfe

    This should be a Reico offense an shoureign in the other internation cyber gang members as well. Moreover, this should also be a civil case for lost damages on a claction uit or somehting akin to it to make up for lost money to whatever extent possible. He should have his account frozen and be handed over to these individuals and to the others unproven to preventing this internationally. This isn't just a U.S.A problem anymore like an issue of world-wide stability. I think its pathetic personally that people buy into such fraud but its to protect security. False advertizing won't be tolerated in the developed world.

    December 3, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russ D.

      Uhhh... huh?

      December 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wellthereitis

      Peter, I hope you were using a phone to post, otherwise, please refrain from doing so in the future.

      December 3, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

      December 3, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • haileymon

      Unless you're a politician

      December 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • RdB

      Huh, what ?

      December 3, 2010 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wellthereitis

      Bob, please join Peter in refraining from further posts.

      December 3, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • CPT Obvious

      Either learn English, or find an online translator that works. kthnxbai

      December 4, 2010 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
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