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.


[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. Michal

    I don't seem to be getting 32 percent less spam

    December 3, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • smurfeater

      Just b/c he was arrested doesn't mean the botnet suddenly stops lol...

      December 3, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      rofl. The bots are automated. And they could anywhere in the world on any computer in the world.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      His design wasn't to infect computers and create a botnet, it was to take computers that are already botted and use them as spam relays. This guy is the fall guy for the Russian mafia hacker team responsible for infecting all the computers. When he was arrested, the networks were immediately abused by the next would-be fall guy. Who cares about 2 years in jail when you have 2 million in the bank...

      December 3, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      The bots are somewhat automated, but you need an end user to publish and update the spam. That's all this tools job was. Moreover, it's not too hard to make someone look like the suspect in this crime. Western Europe is reknown for jumping the gun on prosecution.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • wann2know

      dam, somehow I must be getting your share. It's just not fair. And I don't eat any potted meat products, either.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mama

      Man, I bought that stuff, too. You mean it's not real?

      December 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      It's a sham. Most spam today seems to originate in China.

      December 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • BoyHowdie

      I love Michal's comment. lol.

      December 3, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sorry Dude

      This is Homer Simpson, aka Happy Dude. The court is making me call everybody back and apologize for my telemarketing scam. I'm sorry. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, send one dollar to Sorry Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. You have the power.

      December 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sh-OH

      this is true

      December 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. newt

    death penalty worthy. if they have to keep him alive he should be in prison for life and be fed nothing but cold SPAM.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • juvi

      No, no, Spam is too good for him...put him on the Disneyland ride "It's a small world after all" for life!!!!

      December 3, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      @juvi I can just see a family having to wait to get on the boat after this guy's as he cruises on past in Hannibal Lector style restraints, sweaty and with bloodshot eyes.

      December 3, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      Put him in prison for life. Only food he will have is Spam 🙂

      December 3, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Rhain

      LOL can of SPAMm funny.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Chop his penis off and spam everyone a picture of it. Next day, check your inbox for spam. You'd be amazed.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      @Tyler That would be cruel and unusual. Lol

      December 3, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Okay, seriously, I am not in any way a fan of spam, but the death penalty? Come on. Oooo he sent out junk email, so we should fricking kill him?

      Does this mean we can off the people leaving fliers in my mailbox every day?

      December 3, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      @John Yes.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Number

      @juvi – you are a cruel, cruel person. I took my kids through that thing and I STILL can't get the song out of my head!

      December 3, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    Please, please let this poor guy go. And make sure to let all of know when and where he is being released.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      Bring your baseball bats, it's the American Way.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • GeorgeBos95

      His body will be found hanging from the side of an Armour meat-packing plant.

      Cause of death: asphyxiation caused by his throat being stuffed with SPAM.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • asdf

      Somebody needs to watch the movie The Oxbow Incident to see how fair American mob justice is.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Any loss of human space exploration

      American justice. You need to rethink that. Call it world justice. There is a lot more people beat outside of America to death by a mob.

      December 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TImothy

    How many of us out there have wanted to get our hands on this guy and others like him?

    December 3, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joe Bleaux

    Torture him to death!

    December 3, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Yes, make him eat dinner with Dick Cheney every day for the rest of his life.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • LeftMind

      ... or at least go hunting with him

      December 3, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ELH

    I find it difficult to imagine one person being responsible for 1/3 of the SPAM messages on the net. In any event, this person is garbage. Remove his skin one square inch at a time, pour iodine all over him and then scrub the iodine stains off with a wire brush.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Blue Person Group

      So far, I like this one best.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian from Chicago

      I would volunteer to donate blood just to keep him alive and make your procedure last longer.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Brodie

      It's not like this one guy is sitting at his computer sending those out. He used a botnet to handle all of the messages. Likely you clicked on a link in some email, it installed malware or a trojan and your computer contributed to this epidemic. So you are probably some to blame as well 🙂

      December 3, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • sylo

      I agree with bodie..
      If ppl wouldnt be too stupid to click on those links anywhere in the web, we wouldnt have such problem.

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

      What is wrong with you he sent out mail it's peoples fault if they were dumn enough to buy into it.

      December 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. John Hascall

    Ha ha, I can't wait until he is "amazed by the size" of his cellmates tool.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Cliff

      I am always amazed by this type of post.
      I didn't realize so many guys suffer from the "small penis syndrome!"

      December 3, 2010 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Cliff – Obviously you didn't get the joke. He was mocking the common viagra SPAM message that this guy was most likely responsible for.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • kanon

      Usually it's the one's who claim someone else has a small penis are the ones with small penises.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ryu

    he should have to pay the people he scammed back be strung up like a pinata and we should let a small army of children at him with sticks

    December 3, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. beef

    Who actually responds to spam? How can they make money? Who would buy a drug or a watch from an email that has grave spelling and grammatical errors? Anyone responding to spam should be checked for mental issues. No market, no spammy.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Blue Person Group

      P.T. Barnum was right, though. If only a small fraction of one percent of Spam emails result in sales, that's still a lot of money. And, given the results of any election over the last 10 or so years, it's obvious that more than a small fraction of our population will fall for pretty much anything.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian from Chicago

      It's a "Stupidity Tax".

      December 3, 2010 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave S.

      If you send out a million emails at an aggregate cost of $0.08 and manage to "sell" just one $50 item, you have made a profit of $49.92. Not too shabby for doing next to nothing.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carie

      Beef, I was just thinking the same exact thing!!!! Lol !

      December 3, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • elOteadro

      hey beef, aren't you reading all the irate posters here?
      Guess what? they fell for it.
      All sadists wanting to cut off his penis must've ordered the penis enlarging gadget or pills and now are still called shorty and with less money.

      December 5, 2010 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  10. Seriously...

    just don't click the advertisments. Let he stupid people throw their cash away and the smart people prosper.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Blue Person Group

      That's why we have "income disparity." It's the nature of capitalism. Don't be too successful, though, or they'll tax it away and give it back to the fools again.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian from Chicago

      I haven't exacly "prospered" with the time I spend filtering SPAM.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. TV-Guy

    Never-EVER trust a Russian. What's this guys email address? I've got some email for him-lol.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Blues

      Facebook, Groupon, and Zynga would not exist without someone trusting a Russian.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      And your point is??? those websites are a waste of brain cells.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Carie

      Aww.. my husband is Russian! That isn't very nice! haha

      December 3, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Worried

    NOW where am I going to get a vastly over-priced rolex clone that promptly breaks after a few days???

    December 3, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. The Half Baked Lunatic

    The death penalty would be too kind. Feed him slowly into a meat grinder, feet first, while giving him a transfusion of pigs blood would be more appropriate.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Eastern Europeans and Russians, having been living under a corrupt communist system for so long are as corrupt as they ever were. Ebay sellers won't generally deal with them. I love it when Americans are shocked by this, Westerners are "babes in the woods" when it comes to the sheer corruption that is the rule in the rest of the World. Look at Afghanistan.

      December 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • elOteadro

      This reminds me of the the guy who worked at a pickle packing company.
      he was arrested for puting his penis in the pickle slicer.
      In court the company presented their main witness.
      They asked her name and what she did at the company?
      She said "my name is Jane and I'm the pickle slicer."

      December 5, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  14. Art

    Why do many hateful comments towards the wrong guy?

    If spam becomes unprofitable, it would seize to exist tomorrow, as its quite a pricey enterprise to pay for those bulletproof servers in la-la land data centers. You read it yourself: "he received a payment of $459,098.47 between June 4 and December 5, 2007". That means someone out there is actually purchasing this crap. Hate those who ACT ON SPAM.

    But something clearly doesn't make sense. For a spammer responsible for 1/3 of spam and collecting only half a million?? The math is off. This guy should have been in a yacht on a Riviera. And for the biggest guy in spam business he won't even be able to afford to buy a decent apartment in Moscow...

    December 3, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Blue Person Group

      It didn't say that was ALL he received. That's probably a single payment, from a singler client. Given that he's pushing everything from fake Viagra to fake Rolexes, how many other payments did he get that were not reported? What amazes me is that they were able to catch this guy and actually bring him to justice.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      "If spam becomes unprofitable, it would seize to exist tomorrow, as its quite a pricey enterprise to pay for those bulletproof servers in la-la land data centers."

      Try reading the article. He obviously wasn't just running a big data center in Russia, since if he was, either the Russians would have shut him down, or all our ISPs would have just blacklisted his servers and refused any mail that looked like it came from him.

      Instead, he operated a 'botnet'. The basic idea is you take control of other people's computers with viruses, then use those computers to send your spam emails. It doesn't matter if they're not "bulletproof", or get blocked eventually; you have millions of them, and there are always more suckers who will download unsafe things and get infected. Low overhead for him. Of course, now he's likely to also be hit with computer fraud and theft of services, so... he's probably not going anywhere for a while.

      "But something clearly doesn't make sense. For a spammer responsible for 1/3 of spam and collecting only half a million?? The math is off."

      He made nearly $500K in 6 months, and that was just one payment. I'd say he was doing alright.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • nick

      that explains how there people with such expensive cars in russia

      December 3, 2010 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • carol

      Yes, blame the victims. Sheesh.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Art

    Sorry for all the typos above.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Blue Person Group

      Know porblem.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Didn't Eat Breakfast

      @ BPG


      December 3, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
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