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Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Email and Web security

Hong Kong businessman pleads guilty in stock spam case

A Hong Kong businessman has pleaded guilty for his part in a scam where tens of millions of spam messages were sent, artificially pumping up the stock prices of Chinese companies between 2004 and 2006.

According to media reports, How Wai John Hui, a resident of Hong Kong and Vancouver, was the CEO of China World Trade, one of the companies whose stock was inflated as a result of the scam.

As part of his plea agreement with prosecutors, the 50-year-old businessman could face a sentence of between 63 and 78 months in jail.

“While there’s been a significant drop in pump-and-dump stock manipulation spam since this alleged conspiracy, it’s still encouraging to see authorities pursue cases like this, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

“Without punishment, the cybercriminals may be tempted to revisit old techniques and this will cause more trouble for computer users.”

Sophos experts note that, as in many cases of cybercrime that we encounter today, Hui was not working alone. In fact, he is believed to have been part of a gang which included the notorious Alan Ralsky who was previously accused of being the world’s biggest spammer.

“The alleged association with spam king Alan Ralsky really spells out the seriousness of this case,” continued Cluley.

“While Ralsky has always maintained he is not a spammer, but a legitimate email marketer, the US Department of Justice claims that in the summer of 2005 alone, Ralsky made US$3 million through illegal spam operations. This is likely to just be the tip of the iceberg if it’s true that Ralsky is involved in other scams too.”

Hui's other fellow gang members - Francis "Frankie" Tribble and Judy Devenow - pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges in October 2008, and are scheduled to be sentenced next year. They have all agreed to give evidence against Ralsky.