Tax evasion count gives new weight to spamming conviction

How does law enforcement solve the problem of holding spammers accountable, when federal anti-spam laws are still in their formative stages? In the case of a Colorado man, the answer was to leverage some help from the IRS.

A Colorado man was sentenced yesterday to 21 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty last December to charges of tax evasion and falsifying e-mail headers.

"Spamming deceptive messages to dupe potential investors is part of a larger scheme driven by greed, which includes efforts to hide income and assets from the IRS," said Terry L. Stuart, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation, Denver Field Office. "Those involved face federal prison, and severe civil penalties and interest on any unpaid taxes from their scheme."

The case was worked jointly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Denver field office and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.

Operating from July 5, 2002 to April 15, 2007 under the auspices of a company called Power Promoters, Edward "Eddie" Davidson spammed thousands of Internet users while using false headers to help conceal the sender's information from recipients. From 2002 until 2006, most of Davidson's spam promoted companies wanting to sell watches, perfumes, and similar consumer items.

But starting in 2005, with the aid of several sub-contractors, Davidson e-mailed thousands of Internet users across the world advertising a Texas company, and claiming to offer shares of penny stock for "small companies on the public market."

Davidson also must pay the IRS up to $715,000 in restitution, along with forfeiting personal property he purchased with the ill-gotten gains, including gold coins. Not surprisingly, the IRS became interested after Davidson collected almost $3.5 million without paying taxes on any of the money during his five-year spamming frenzy. He was indicted in June 2007.

Davidson is out on bond but must report to a prison facility sometime in May to begin his sentence.

The FBI and IRS have been working with police authorities across the country while trying to stop organized spammers operating inside the United States. For example, the so called "king of spam," Robert Soloway, faces up to 26 years in prison and fines up to $625,000 for a number of federal charges, including mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and tax evasion.

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