"King of Spam" Oleg Nikolaenko snagged by Wisconsin FBI
Oleg Nikolaenko turned bad spelling and inbox bombing into a multi-million dollar enterprise.
Check your spam folder. According to the FBI, one in every three messages in there is courtesy of 23-year-old Oleg Nikolaenko. Since he ascended the "Spam King" throne in 2007, Nikolaenko has been responsible for billions of emails hawking all the usual spam staples -- penis enlargements, drugs, fake Rolexes.
And he would have gotten away with it were it not for one Wisconsin FBI agent and an order of Viagra.
Back in 2009, a man named Jody Smith pleaded guilty to hawking fake Rolex watches online, and using spam as a key part of his operation. In order to wriggle out of the tight spot, Smith ratted out his co-conspirator Lance Atkinson, an Australian purveyor of counterfeit male enhancement pills and other fake prescription drugs.
Smith and Atkinson pointed to an online company they'd paid $2 million to create their spam. The information helped the FBI trace a complicated internet trail of breadcrumbs back to one malignant online identity, "Mega-D." Mega-D, it turns out, infected over 500,000 computers with a virus, using them to blast out spam under hundreds of thousands of different email addresses. At its peak, Mega-D was responsible for one-third of the world's spam.
Some savvy cyber-detective work revealed Mega-D is really Nikolaenko, who lives in Russia. Nikolaenko, the feds learned through his real email address, enjoys not only American currency but also American excess. He'd made several trips to L.A. and Las Vegas, staying in luxury hotels.
Anticipating he may return for another stateside vacay, a Wisconsin FBI agent set the trap. He ordered one package of herbal male enhancement pills and one pack of Viagra through a spam email traced to Mega-D. When the package arrived to the agent's dummy address in Milwaukee -- containing no Viagra -- Nikolaenko was on the hook in Wisconsin.
A year later when the rapacious Ruskie set foot on American soil again for a Las Vegas car show, feds descended on the Bellagio hotel and nabbed him.
He was arraigned this morning in Milwaukee.
Sadly, the sentence for annoying the crap out of the entire world is incredibly light. Nikolaenko is only facing a maximum of three years and a $250,000 fine, which he probably carries in cash in his back pocket.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.