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. Ronald C Krause J

    Send em to Chernobyl to assist in the clean up efforts. If he can live beyond a matter of a few weeks then we'll let him live the rest of his short life out of captivity on good behavior

    December 3, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. Botnet

    This is an automatic post generated from Botnet. Please free our master. We come in pieces – pieces of spam mails.

    BTW, please call 1-800-555-8888 to order your latest herbal drug

    December 3, 2010 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. kazz

    hang him!

    December 3, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ron

    The guy was tracked, identified and arrested. His attorney says it's only accusations and that he will give a rigorous defense. The guilty seldom take responsibility for their illegal activities. A sleazy attorney and a slime ball for a client.

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

      Funny. The innocent seldom take responsibility for their non-illegal activities. While it seems as if this guy is definitely guilty, do you suggest that we not allow him the opportunity to make the government prove their case against him? I mean, government officials did identify, track and capture him. They never make mistakes.

      December 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jdubb

    10 billion spam messages sent/day
    If .01% of people actually clicked and bought something, that would still come to 1 million people.
    Then mutliply that by the amount purchased.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    The reason his bot sent out 10 billion spam emails per day, is because statistics show that 1 out of every 10 million spam emails sent out actually get clicked on.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. GravyLeg

    Lynch him.....

    December 3, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Matt

    As I was typing my last comment, I looked over on my other screen at Outlook and a fake Rolex spam message just came in.

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

    How is hiring a spammer to hawk your cheesy goods any different than hiring a hitman to carry out a murder for you? I'd say, we need to go after the "peddlers" as well. Shouldn't be too hard to track them down, if they're actually making money selling this crap, should be pretty easy to trace the money.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. SFC Mike

    Too bad they don't have the death penalty for spammers.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. christopher

    He was arrested for being an advertising agent basically is what the article says. I don't care for spam but I don't see how it's any different from getting normal mail that is there for no other reason than to solicit me to spend money on a product or service. Why isn't that illegal. It's much harder to deal with I think. Electronic spam just goes to a folder that I delete every month or so. It hardly warrants imprisonment on the senders part.

    December 3, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Flagguy

      The whole "what about junk mail" argument isn't related. He used hacked computers illegally to push illegal wares and commit fraud. If you want to compare it to junk mail, it would be more like him hijacking mail trucks simply to deliver junk mail selling illegal items or committing fraud. Guess what, hijacking/stealing a postal vehicle, selling illegal items such as generic pharmaceuticals while still under patent, and committing mail fraud are all illegal.

      December 3, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Thomas

    I can never understand why so many people are calling for this guy's head simply because he used the free-market system better than they did. Isn't this what Reagan was after - a capitalist Russia?

    December 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Burbank

    So why am I gettig just as much spam??? Something doesn't add up here.

    December 3, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Melissa

    I hope to hell they keep him away from any computers for the rest of his life and give him a life long sentence.

    Matt, you get one or two fliers a day by snail mail. You get dozens, or even hundreds, of crap in your email every day. There's a difference.

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

    Like the owners of Helix Electric in San Diego, all ruskies like their vodka and botnet

    December 3, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
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