CHICAGO — An alleged cyber spammer has been indicted on federal fraud charges for sending well over a million spam emails and damaging several computer networks.
MICHAEL PERSAUD, 36, of Scottsdale, Ariz., used multiple Internet Protocol addresses and domains – a technique known as “snowshoe spamming” – to transmit spam emails over at least nine networks, according to an indictment returned in federal court in Chicago. Persaud sent well over a million spam emails to recipients in the United States and abroad, the indictment states. He often used false names to register the domains, and he created fraudulent “From Address” fields to conceal that he was the true sender of the emails, according to the indictment. The charges also accuse Persaud of illegally transferring and selling millions of email addresses for the purpose of transmitting spam.
The indictment charges Persaud with ten counts of wire fraud and seeks the forfeiture of four computers.
The indictment was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin; Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and R. Justin Tolomeo, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Milwaukee Office of the FBI.
According to the indictment, Persaud gained access and use of the victim networks by falsely representing that he would not use their systems to send spam, and that he would comply with their policies prohibiting spamming, the indictment states. In reality, Persaud used a California company called Impact Media LLC and other aliases to send spam on behalf of sellers of various goods and services, the indictment states. Persaud earned commissions for each sale generated by the spam, the indictment states.
When some of the networks terminated his lease and denied him access to their networks, Persaud used aliases to contract with other networks, according to the indictment. In some instances, Persaud provided false forms of identification and payment, including a driver’s license and debit card, to support the alias, the indictment states. Persaud’s alleged aliases included the names “Michael Prescott,” “Michael Pearson,” and “Jeff Martinez.”
The indictment was returned Dec. 9, 2016, and ordered unsealed after Persaud’s arrest last month in Arizona. His arraignment earlier today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox marked his first Chicago court appearance. Persaud pleaded not guilty and was ordered released on his own recognizance. While on bond, Persaud is restricted from traveling outside the District of Arizona, with the exception of making court appearances in Chicago.
A status hearing was scheduled for Feb. 21, 2017, at 10:15 a.m., before U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Romero of the Northern District of Illinois, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chmelar of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.