Will Indictment of Spam King Lead to Less Spam?

Having to let go of a longtime e-mail address can be as painful as letting go of your cell phone number.

So like many Americans, Washington, D.C., publicist Deborah Schwartz was reluctant to let go of her account, even though it was costing more and more of her precious free time.

"I was getting on average in the last month, 200 to 400 [spam] e-mails every day. Spam of all kinds," she told ABC News' Law & Justice Unit.

Schwartz said her Internet service provider told her the spam was clogging her inbox and halting her legitimate e-mail traffic.

"They'd say, 'You're 120 percent over. You're 150 percent over what we can provide. We're going to shut down your e-mail intake,'" she said. "So I'd immediately go in and clean that up. That was especially difficult when I was on the road, seeing clients or whatever.''

Schwartz was one of millions who cheered the indictment Thursday of alleged Seattle "spam king" Robert Alan Soloway on 35 federal counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

The government accuses Soloway, 27, of using computers known as "zombies" because their owners don't know they have been compromised to spam blast cyberspace with junk mail. Soloway pleaded not guilty Wednesday to all charges.

Experts tell ABC News that the government's indictment of Soloway is noteworthy in that it charged identity theft, which carries more serious penal penalties, instead of the more commonly used anti-fraud laws.

While government and big business said that Soloway was such a driving force that e-mail users nationwide could see a decrease in unwanted mail, other experts and users balked.

And one law professor wondered whether this new prosecutorial precedent could have far-reaching legal consequences.

A Fresh Start

Schwartz said she had a growing spam problem that had to be addressed.

"It became a constraint on everything," she said. "It was very time consuming and probably slowed up work a bit. So I made up my mind on Memorial Day weekend to create a new e-mail address. And I'll use that address, and get rid of the old one, slowly. But I had to notify I'd say 2,300 e-mail sources, e-mail addresses. Some people got in touch. Some have not. I don't know if they're all sending. My own son sent me an e-mail to the wrong address today."

Of course changing your e-mail affects the rest of your personal communication tools, too. "Letterhead, business cards. Everything will have to be changed to show the new e-mail address. So it was a big decision to do it. But I had to. There was just no way I could keep working that way, not with that much spam."

The Criminal Indictment

While Schwartz was rearranging her life and business around her new e-mail address this weekend, the government was preparing to bring one of its most hard-hitting cases ever against a man it said was behind one of the largest junk e-mail companies in the world.

In federal court in Seattle Wednesday, Soloway's court-appointed public defender declined to comment to The Associated Press, and a judge determined that even though four bank accounts had been seized, Soloway could still afford to get his own lawyer, the AP reported. Prosecutor Kathryn Warma reportedly said he had been living in a high-end apartment and driving a Mercedes convertible.

Prosecutors allege in court papers that Soloway advertised on his Web site his ability to send out as many as 20 million e-mails over a two-week period for $495.

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