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spam = RICO?


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Should we start to lobby the govt directly or lobby our professional organization lobby on our behalf for RICO laws in the USA to be used against spammers and spammer support operations. The anti-money laundering part really ties them all together, because under US legal precedents any money the spammer earns is dirty, and any money earned by parties helping him/her is also dirty, and dirty money is assumed guilty (it can be seized with very little requirement for proof of guilt by the holders of the money/assets.

Most of the rackets the spammers run comes under the federal definition of racketeering (see below, in bold).

US laws are extraterritorial (they apply to everyone, everywhere if their actions have an impact on US (Noriega vs DOJ), and the US can legally extradite anyone by force to the US if their actions cause harm to American Citizens or property.

Under the law, racketeering activity means:

* Any violation of state statutes against gambling, murder, kidnapping, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in the Controlled Substances Act);

* Any act of bribery, counterfeiting, theft, embezzlement, fraud, dealing in obscene matter, obstruction of justice, slavery, racketeering, gambling, money laundering, commission of murder-for-hire, and several other offenses covered under the Federal criminal code (Title 18);

* Embezzlement of union funds;

* Bankruptcy or securities fraud;

* Drug trafficking;

* Money laundering and related offenses;

* Bringing in, aiding or assisting aliens in entering the country (if the action was for financial gain);

* Acts of terrorism.

Pattern of racketeering activity requires at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years (excluding any period of imprisonment) after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity. The U.S. Supreme Court has instructed federal courts to follow the continuity plus relationship test in order to determine whether the facts of a specific case give rise to an established pattern. Predicate acts are related if they "have the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated events." H.J. Inc. v. Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. Continuity is both a closed and open ended concept, referring to either a closed period of conduct, or to past conduct that by its nature projects into the future with a threat of repetition.

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Interesting take ... why not?

...the US can legally extradite anyone by force to the US if their actions cause harm to American Citizens or property.
Well, the devil's in the detail and it doesn't quite work out that simply IIUC but since much of the money trail supposedly/allegedly leads straight back to the USA that barely matters. But do the US spamkings (and notionally/logically-existent spamqueens, evidently far smarter) actually pay tax on all of their ill-gotten gains? That has to be another approach, one which is mentioned in the public accounts of the very few cases brought so far (and a ground of action which was enough to bring down far more 'serious' villains in the past). One can only suppose, notwithstanding the relaxed standards of proof which might apply under both RICO and tax evasion charges, there are procedural problems with the proof but, sadly, the possibility that this might be less of an impediment in the case of RICO is not, so far, supported by a track record of indictment. This supposition is more likely, I think, than imagining the entire law enforcement community is permanently asleep at the wheel.

Anyway, IIRC, Scott Richter was the subject of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act breach allegations pressed by Earthlink a while back. Any others? "Why not?" would be a good question to ask, for sure. Earthlink (quick Google) was supposing that spam cost American business (alone) $10b in 2003 (alone) in the source I have just seen - extract from Media Literacy by W. James Potter, 3rd edition, 2005. That sort of money has to excite some sort of response, even in a society which is generally blind to the problem. Heck, that's getting close to the entire "Y2k" fraud. <_<

So yes, I'm entirely behind any push for closer examination of RICO grounds for prosecution.

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IANAL, but if the spam activity can be ultimately traced to a U.S. National (citizen or not), then I can't see any reason why a RICO prosecution wouldn't be in order (even if the perp depends mainly upon marshaling offshore network resources). Where things might get dicey is if the man (or woman) behind the spam is not in the U.S.

I once heard some third-hand scuttlebutt from an employee of the U.S. State Dept. regarding attempts to crack down on the counterfeit watch trade. He supposedly alleged that the U.S. could take more aggressive steps to police this activity, but doing so would risk annoying foreign governments that we (the U.S.) were either trying to calm down or else suck up to. If this is true, then we easily see that we stand to run into some realpolitik in dealing with transnational spam.

I suspect that this sort of international law-enforcement stuff takes a lot of delicate negotiation even under the best circumstances; given certain, er, irregularities by our (U.S.) government over the past few years in the area of extradition, rendition, etc., we would already be starting out several pegs behind where we needed to be. Plus, many of the countries we would have to deal with have very different perceptions of the criminality of spam, and it could be tough to convince them to surrender someone to us for pursuing a livelihood that they themselves tolerate, or even condone, among their own public.

Still, it appears that we are able to claim some successes in this area, such as this case. Obviously, we have a lot more pull with Romania than we do with, say, PRC or Russia.

-- rick

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I had to chuckle, even though it's not really a chuckling matter.

We've been ranting and ranting about Title 18 since the early days of spam. (Before SpamCop had this forum) At the FTC spam Forum in Washington, everyone except Julian and a few others (including myself) ranted about the applicability of all kinds of chapters in Title 18. It was largely ignored. When I brought up "Shouldn't ICANN be doing something about this???" They all immediately clammed up, ended the Q&A section, and went on with the next speaker. It was very obvious that ICANN could not be mentioned nor discussed in that venue. Good old Bill and AlGore.

The problem is,

1) The judicial system hasn't yet decided how to deal with "email"

2) Organized crime hires better lawyers than the AGs

3) Judges are unable to understand the second layer after the actual crime.

... "Guy shoots convenience store owner. Caught on video. Guy is guilty."


... Layer #1: "Guy sends email to victim containing porno...

... Layer #2: "Victim (14 year old girl) goes to guy's web site... "

... Layer #3: "Victim enters charge card number to see more..."

... Layer #4: "Guy buys a new boat on card number, closes the account"

Since the Judge is unable to comprehend what went on, and there's no

specific legislation pretaining to "what happened?" he cannot issue a bench

warrant for "Guy" -- end of case.

So, "Guy" is allowed to continue practice -- although there were FOUR

(count'em) FOUR violations of Title 18 -- THREE of which are a CLASS 1 Felony.

(That's two more than shooting the convenience store owner!)

YES INDEED ... go right ahead...

> Should we start to lobby the govt directly or lobby our professional

> organization lobby on our behalf for RICO laws in the USA to be

> used against spammers and spammer support operations.

Let me know when you get it going.

But believe me, no one will listen. Help will NOT be coming.

Been there, done that.

[Editing post: I did not mean to be flip, although it may read like that.

If you find a way to get someone to listen to the RICO approach, then

please send me private email. RICO cases will not get far in court because

the evidence trail is insufficient to overcome defense strategies by the

spammer's attorneys -- no attorney nor judge will try a case that's

already lost because of those reasons. Besides, law enforcement is

too busy rounding up drunks and speeders. They don't have the time

it takes to pursue actual criminals. You're going to need an AG who

is willing to spend some time and resources on the matter.

I'm working on another totally different legal approach. ]

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You're going to need an AG who

is willing to spend some time and resources on the matter.

I'm working on another totally different legal approach. ]

Well that seems to be the root of it. AG's have the energy and the resources to police the internet. Look at how well the NY AG is doing at killing off access to usenet (in the last 30 days almost every major cable ISP has eliminated usenet access because of a secret MOU with the NY AG.

Our AGs are totally obsessed with child porn, and ignoring all the other issues that could harm children.

The AGs enforce the laws we want enforced, but we "The People" keep telling them to enforce the wrong laws. If they will not listen to us as voters, we should be lobbying our professional organizations to get money to candidates that deal with real issues.

Good post though, I was curious if this has come up before, which obviously it has.

But in this economy, RICO might have a selling point

1) Pre-trial seizure of assets

2) Triple Damages

Since the govt (at all levels) is going broke - a lot of these spammers with multi-million dollar homes might look a little more tempting to a cash starved government.

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