"Internet Forgery" Not A Crime?

000525 internet extortion scams
A man who allegedly hijacked the computer system of a New York company to send millions of come-ons to America Online customers maintains that he committed no crime.

“The defendant not only alleges that he did not commit a crime, he does not believe a crime was committed at all,” said Bruce Bendish, attorney for Jason Garon of Mission Viejo, Calif.

Garon, 46, surrendered and was arraigned on charges of forgery and computer tampering. If convicted he could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. He was released without bail pending a September court hearing.

Westchester County, New York, District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said Garon's “spam” messages, about pornographic Web sites or get-rich-quick schemes, were disguised to look as if they had been sent from ibm.net, IBM's Internet provider.

“You couldn't find him to complain, but he could find you to make money off you,” she said. “This is an old crime, committed in a new way. He was basically brokering porn and various schemes, and it was forgery because he used this false return address.”

Pirro said the message traffic Garon allegedly sent through the Market Vision company in Irvington, a graphics studio, was so heavy that it crashed the company's internal network, causing damage in repairs and business downtime.

Ed Greenberg, owner of the company, said his losses amounted to about $18,000.

The district attorney's office, which has a High Technology Crimes Bureau and has specialized in Internet cases, said the criminal prosecution for Internet forgery was the first of its kind in the United States. In Los Angeles last year, four men pleaded guilty to fraud charges for sending 50 million e-mails asking job seekers to pay $35 each for a chance to work at home stuffing envelopes. Four Internet providers said their systems were threatened by that overload.

According to Pirro, Market Vision's computer network began to slow down in autumn 1998 and eventually ground to a halt. An investigation found that the company's server was being flooded with e-mail messages to be rerouted, which took all of the server's resources.

The e-mails were intended for AOL customers, and with the help of AOL, IBM and AT&T, they were traced to Garon's apartment, Pirro said. Investigators from Orange County, Calif., obtained a search warrant and seized Garon's computer and various storage devices last year.

Westchester's high-tech bureau then found the origin of the spam on Garon's computer, the district attorney said.