Spam king Sanford Wallace indicted for Facebook spam

Prosecutors say he hacked 500,000 accounts to send 27 million messages

Notorious spam king Sanford Wallace is facing federal fraud charges for allegedly breaking into Facebook accounts and sending 27 million spam messages in 2008 and 2009.

Wallace, 43, allegedly used a phishing attack to steal usernames and passwords from victims and then used the stolen credentials to post spam to victims walls, the U.S. Department of Justice said. Wallace allegedly made money from the scam by driving Web traffic to affiliate marketing companies, who pay their members by the number of clicks they can deliver to websites.

The charges are outlined in an indictment, filed July 6 but made public Thursday after Wallace turned himself in to federal authorities.

Wallace gained fame as one of spam's most vocal defenders back in the 1990s and he has faced numerous civil actions over his activities, including lawsuits from MySpace and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

However this is the first time he's facing criminal charges.

Wallace has also been sued by Facebook, which won a US$711 million civil judgement against him. As part of that judgement, he was banned from Facebook, and the criminal indictment accuses Wallace of contempt of court for allegedly logging onto the social network during an April 2009 Virgin Airlines flight from Las Vegas to New York. Wallace also allegedly set up a Facebook profile in January of this year under the user name David Sinful-Saturdays Fredericks.

"We applaud the efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI to bring spammers to justice," Facebook said in an e-mailed statement. "Now Wallace also faces serious jail time for this illegal conduct. We will continue to pursue and support both civil and criminal consequences for spammers or others who attempt to harm Facebook or the people who use our service."

Wallace could get more than 16 years in prison, if convicted.

He was released Thursday on a $100,000 bond. His next appearance is set for Aug. 22 at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose, California.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicessecuritylegalsocial networkinginternetcybercrimeFacebook

More about Department of JusticeetworkFacebookFBIFederal Trade CommissionIDGSanford Australia

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Robert McMillan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts