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. Mavent

    Yeah, how dare this guy generate money during a Recession with 10% unemployment? Clearly, anyone making money who's not an Investment Banker, Lady GaGa, or Lebron James needs to be jailed and executed.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      I agree. That's why I support crack dealers. What?

      December 3, 2010 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Bazoing

      This idea of generating money is more poisonous than him. It you help no one and produce nothing you do not contribute. This acceptance that the drones are "generating money" is why we have cycles of economic disaster.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Wrong, this guy sent e-mails......thats it. If anyone lost money because of some stupid spam e-mail than it's their own damn fault, people need to take responsibility for their own stupid actions. Someone asked this guy if he could send a bunch of e-mails in exchange for millions of dollars and he said yes, what would you do? Would you rather have him come to the US and live off our government?

      December 3, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. WC

    It looks like Tom Delay and Dick Cheney will be getting a Russian cellmate.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. outawork

    His punishment should be to send an apology for each spam email one by one. Would this be spam too? ;>)

    December 3, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff

    Please Please burn him at the stake!

    December 3, 2010 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. YerKiddinMe

    Funny thing, I have never received much spam in any of my numerous email accounts over the years. Wonder what I was doing wrong? Maybe I needed to sign up for more FREE offers, social networking memberships and forward every joke or cute video I ever received to everyone on my contact lists.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • IT_lady

      I love you.

      December 3, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jefe

      Next you are going to tell me that that nice man from Nigeria really doesn't have lottery winnings stuck in escrow!!!!!!

      December 3, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • elOteadro

      I have about six e-mail accounts – no spam

      December 5, 2010 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. bsitz

    What the hell is he going to be charged with? Isnt he technically just a middle man for the people selling the fake products?

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

      It's been explicitly illegal for a few years in many countries to send unsolicited commercial email (ie, spam.) See, e.g., the CAN-SPAM act in the US.

      If he was operating a botnet, he'll also face a wide variety of charges related to breaking into computer systems and for theft of services.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      And he could also be rung up for aiding and abetting the people selling counterfeit goods.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      I get junk mail in my real mailbox that sits at the end of my driveway, can we arrest the mailman?

      December 3, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • ratkartz

      Spam is theft. He is a thief and a criminal. An agonising death, taped and available on youtube, might be a suitable conclusion. And similar ends for other spammers, especially the spammer car dealers in Colorado like Pinkas.

      December 4, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. mecatfish

    Norton Internet Security will probably bail him out.
    How much money did they make off of him?

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

      Let me just do some quick math here....carry the 1.....equals......$0

      This guy isn't responsible for e-mail viruses, he is just paid to send an e-mail. Rather than lock this guy up they should have never publicized anything and gone after his clients, they are the real crooks

      December 3, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  8. Brickell Princess

    Who really buys anything from a spam e-mail? No matter how enticing, why would anyone buy that stuff? I just don't get how these spamers can make so much money when all they put out is garbage.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      These spammers don't make money selling worthless crap that you receive in your inbox, they are paid to advertise for the crooks who make money off stupid people who buy worthless crap. This guy is just the mailman for the crooks, I'm not sure that should be a crime.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. Blue Person Group

    Send him away to an island, with lots of Viagra an only Nancy Pelosi for company.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • let it be known

      lmao...such a harsh and cruel punishment!

      December 3, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Didn't Eat Breakfast

    Sounds movie worthy. The part "led officials across several continents, to different e-mail addresses and websites and, eventually, back to Nikolaenko" had my creative gears churning!


    nvm....I just didn't eat breakfast yet...

    December 3, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. NM

    He's not the only one sending this crap out, because I'm still getting it, almost everyday!

    December 3, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  12. mttrailboss

    They should hang this guy by his balls. I wonder how many people, lost money in their bank account because of this guy. Internet fraud is serious business in the United States and the FBI, and Justice Department has a new department thats tracks people like this.., to stop internet fraud and taking your money. I hope th U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Judge throws the book at him. Keep him locked up and away from computers and the internet. Mike in Montana

    December 3, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      This guy was not committing fraud, he simply advertised for people who commit fraud. We don't lock up the mailman because we get junk mail so why should this guy be treated any differently?

      December 3, 2010 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • GravyLeg

      Because when a BotNet is involved he IS commiting a crime.

      December 3, 2010 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. Joe Stalin

    Did he spam all these posts here?

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

    This is an automatic generated message from the botnet. Please free our master. We come in pieces, pieces of spam mails.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  15. matt

    need to hang this guy and cut his balls off.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
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