Massachusetts Files Suit To Shut Major Spam Ring

The suit accuses the group, which it alleges was led by Massachusetts resident Leo Kuvayev, of violating state and federal laws. Late in the day, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Ralph Gants issued an emergency order that effectively shut down dozens of websites linked to the defendants, as well as to two Internet companies.

Criminal charges have not yet been filed in the case, and Kuvayev's whereabouts was unknown, Reilly said in a Boston news conference Wednesday.

The suit alleges that Kuvayev and the other defendants sent millions of unsolicited emails by recruiting "affiliates" who also transmitted spam that tried to lure consumers to Kuvayev's websites. The sites allegedly sold counterfeit prescription drugs, pirated software, home mortgage loan offers, fake Rolex watches and pornography.

The defendants, who Reilly called the "Internet Spam Gang," and the two companies named in the suit--2K Services Ltd. and ECash Pay Ltd.--operated in Boston suburbs and in Russia, using domain names registered in Monaco, Australia and France, and computer servers in China, Korea, Brazil and Taiwan.

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In a joint news conference with Microsoft Corp., which assisted in the investigation, Reilly, who is expected to be a candidate for Massachusetts governor in 2006, said the ring was one of the "biggest in the world," sending out millions of spam emails.

"This is clearly the largest [operation] that my staff has seen," Reilly said.

Reilly said the suit was filed to shut down the operation because of the danger it posed to the public, particularly by advertising counterfeit antidepressant drugs and painkillers. "We wanted them to know that the unwelcome mat is out," Reilly said.

Asked whether criminal charges would be filed and the suspects arrested, Reilly would only say that his office's investigation was continuing.

Microsoft's Internet Safety Enforcement team helped in the investigation by setting up bogus Hotmail accounts, in order to gather spam from the alleged ring, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said during the press conference. During a three-week period in mid-2004, the "trap" accounts received at least 45,000 messages suspected of originating from the defendants.

"This is one of the most sophisticated spam operators ever," Smith said. "If there was money, then they offered a [spam] vehicle to try to take advantage of it."

The defendants allegedly received millions of dollars from a well-organized central operation that coordinated the efforts of web affiliates that had an international reach, Reilly said.

The suit accuses Kuvayev and his alleged associates of violating the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act and the federal CAN-SPAM Act. The defendants, who are all U.S. citizens, include Kuvayev, Vladislav Khokholkov, Anna Orlova, Pavel Tkachuk, Michelle Marco, Dennis Nartikoev, Pavel Yashin, 2K Services Ltd., and Ecash Pay, Ltd. All of them, according to the complaint, worked for either 2K Services or Ecash. Both companies were unincorporated and listed the same Massachusetts post-office box address as their place of business.

Reilly last year was the first state attorney general to file a lawsuit against suspected spammers under the federal CAN-SPAM act. The suit was filed against a Florida-based company DC Enterprises.

This story was updated on May 12th, 2005.