Accused 'Buffalo Spammer' Is Jailed

Chances are, Howard Carmack was only hoping to make money.

Instead, he's cooling his heels in jail in Buffalo, his hometown, where he has made history.

Carmack, 36, accused of being the so-called "Buffalo spammer," is the first person ever arrested under New York State's new identity theft law.

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer says Carmack is accused of sending more than 825 million junk e-mail messages and using stolen identities to thwart attempts to shut down his spam operation.

Carmack was taken into custody at his home in Buffalo on Tuesday, entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment, and remains in jail after failing to post $20,000 in bail.

He's due back in court on Monday.

The arrest is only the latest chapter in Carmack's legal troubles.

One week ago, a federal judge awarded the Internet service provider EarthLink damages of $16.4 million and a permanent injunction against Carmack.

Carmack was at that time identified as the leader of a Buffalo-based operation that used EarthLink services to send some 825 million pieces of unsolicited "spam" e-mail in the past year, is banned from sending spam - or helping others send it.

EarthLink, the nation's third-largest Internet service provider, said Carmack and others kept the bulk e-mail flowing through Internet accounts opened with stolen identities and credit card numbers.

Investigators say they've been trying to nab Carmack for more than a year.

Carmack is accused of stealing the identity of two Buffalo-area residents to open accounts with Internet service provider EarthLink. He is charged with forgery, criminal possession of a forgery device, falsifying business records and identity theft and faces up to 7 years in prison for the forgery charge.

"This is one of the most difficult and problematic evolutions of e-mail," Spitzer said. "Much spam is bothersome but not illegal. When it involves forged identity and identity theft, then it is clearly illegal."

The spam authorities say Carmack generated hit notes all-too-familiar to anyone who uses e-mail: offers for herbal Viagra, weight-loss products and get-rich schemes, including bulk e-mail programs.

"This shows spamming has both civil and criminal consequences," said Dave Baker, EarthLink's vice president of law and public policy. "He was a prolific spammer who was costing us, our customers and Internet users everywhere. It's not just an inconvenience and annoyance, it's fraudulent."

Investigators said they were unsure just how much Carmack made from his e-mail business, but didn't think it was much, perhaps a few thousand dollars.

"We don't believe that his commercial operations were an enormous success," said Spitzer.