Spammer case

Quebec spammer ordered to pay Facebook $1-billion

Courts in the United States and Canada have ordered him to pay Facebook Inc. more than $1-billion for hacking into its network, but a high-living Montreal spammer says the company will not see a cent because he has declared bankruptcy.

In a decision made public this week, Quebec Superior Court ruled that a 2008 U.S. judgment ordering Adam Guerbuez to pay $1-billion in damages is enforceable in Quebec. The penalty was the equivalent of US$200 for each of the more than four million spam messages he sent to Facebook users.

Mr. Guerbuez did not contest the case brought against him in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif. But his lawyer argued before Superior Court that the damages awarded were disproportionate to the alleged offence. Justice Lucie Fournier disagreed, ruling that it would be an affront to public order if Quebec were to shelter him from California justice.

"If that were the case, it would allow all sorts of infraction to take place via the Internet with impunity, and the revenue from these activities would not be seizable in Quebec," the judge wrote.

Mr. Guerbuez succeeded in sending messages advertising penis enlargement pills and porn to people's Facebook pages, making it appear as if they had come from friends.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Guerbuez, 34, boasted that he has remained a step ahead of Facebook by filing for personal bankruptcy. "I will not have to pay a penny of that because I was declared bankruptcy two months ago," he said. "If you want to call it clever, go ahead."

Bankruptcy trustee Rochelle Pont confirmed he has been in bankruptcy since June 30.

Judging from his personal website, bankruptcy has not put a serious damper on his lifestyle. Recent photos and videos show him in Beverly Hills, behind the wheel of a Mercedes driving to Las Vegas and shooting craps in a casino. A blog entry from last January includes pictures of his trip to the Cayman Islands.

In its lawsuit, Facebook filed as evidence YouTube videos on which Mr. Guerbuez boasted about his wealth and showed off his flashy cars. It quoted a website describing Mr. Guerbuez as a "notorious Internet scammer."

The California court files also include older material relating to Mr. Guerbuez's past in the white-supremacist movement. In 1995, when he was 19, he identified himself to Montreal's The Gazette newspaper as "chief media liaison" in Quebec for the Heritage Front, a Canadian neo-Nazi organization that disbanded in 2005. In 2000 he was charged with aggravated assault in connection with a fatal attack outside a Montreal bar frequented by neo-Nazis. He was acquitted, and an acquaintance was convicted of manslaughter.

In 2003, the Montreal Mirror reported that he was promoting a video of attacks on Montreal vagrants, accompanied by music described as a "racist-skinhead anthem." A 2007 video he posted to YouTube features his Chrysler 300C, custom-painted with a large Iron Cross on the hood. The cross is sometimes used as a hate symbol because of its association with Nazi Germany, but Mr. Guerbuez said he painted it on his car as a tribute to his mother's Catholic background. He noted that the same cross is used as a symbol by the West Coast Choppers motorcycle company, so he thought it was appropriate for a souped-up automobile.

He does not deny getting involved in the white supremacist movement but says it was an error of his youth. "You do things when you're young, and you regret them and you leave them in your past," he said.

He said he regrets "associating with the wrong people, wasting years of my life on a completely ridiculous cause that was going nowhere, associating myself with gangsters and criminals."

He said he is self-employed as an "Internet marketing specialist." He objects to the label spammer, saying his line of work is no different than that of companies that send flyers through letter slots. "Like everyone else, I'm living the good life, and everything's fine," he said.

The Montreal lawyer representing Facebook could not be reached for comment.

(Published by National Post - October 6, 2010)

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