Robert Soloway, aged 27, was arrested in Seattle earlier this week — a week after being indicted on charges of identity theft; money laundering; and wire, mail, and e-mail fraud.

Soloway has been responsible for sending tens of millions of unsolicited commercial bulk e-mail between November 2003 and May 2007. In a bid to avoid detection he has routinely changed the Internet address of his company, Newport Internet Marketing. In 2006 Soloway started to register new Internet addresses via Chinese service providers.

The prosecution claim that in order to carry out his ‘routine’ spamming activities the accused made use of ‘botnets’ and false e-mail headers. A ‘botnet’ is a network made up of ‘zombie’ computers; these are generally home computers that have been infected with some kind of Trojan or malicious software. Once a member of a ‘botnet’ these machines can be used to send SPAM email without any knowledge of the owner. Headers in an email specify information such as the subject and ‘from’ address. By falsifying these headers users were tricked in to opening unsolicited email that would usually have been filtered out or ignored.

Mr Soloway is said to be the first person to face prosecution under new federal laws aimed at fighting identity theft. If convicted he faces losing over $700,000 that he is said to have made from his spamming activities. He will also receive a fine of $250,000 and up to 65 years in prison!