NZ-born spammer in court after 140,000 complaints

A New Zealand-born man headed up one of the world's largest online spamming operations that racked up as many as 140,000 reports, a Queensland court was told.

Lance Thomas Atkinson (26) has admitted to being involved in a large-scale spam-sending operation that delivered emails to internet users all over the world.

Both his defence lawyer and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) submitted to the Federal Court in Brisbane that he receive a $A210,000 ($NZ267,000 ) penalty for the offences, but Justice Andrew Greenwood reserved his decision December 22.

"Citizens find these things highly annoying and he was at the centre of it," said Justice Greenwood after hearing that 140,000 reports had been received.

After ACMA delivered Justice Greenwood written submissions, which were not read out, the court was told the spamming occurred over a period of 14 months and that Atkinson, from the Sunshine Coast, was involved in recruiting spammers.

Outside the court, ACMA anti-spam team manager Julia Cornwell McKean said the agency had received 140,000 reports from customers who had provided examples.

"So these were just the tip of the iceberg, we're talking about big numbers here," Ms McKean said.

It has previously been reported that Atkinson, who has already been fined $A16 million by US authorities and also fined in New Zealand, had a computer system capable of sending up to 10 billion emails per day.

Ms McKean said one of the prime examples of the spam emails sent were herbal products to improve men's sex lives.

"These emails get sent to people's inbox every day and people are just sick of them," Ms McKean said.

"We're not clear about the actual income that resulted from this but I'd say it was most likely substantial."

Ms McKean said although the maximum penalty was $A1.1 million per day of offending, due to Mr Atkinson's co-operation with ACMA they able to cut down on legal costs and therefore only requested a $A210,000 penalty.

She said future penalties would increase if Atkinson reoffended.

She said in order for electronic advertising messages not to be considered spam, a company needed permission to send a message, state who they were and give people the opportunity to unsubscribe.

Under the Spam Act, individuals found guilty can only receive civil penalty provisions and not jail time.


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