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16 Nov 2005

Six years jail for "Weaselboy" scammer who defrauded hundreds

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A man who scammed hundreds of internet users has been sentenced to six years in jail.

Experts at Sophos have welcomed the news that British spammer Peter Francis-Macrae has been sentenced to six years in prison for fraud and other crimes.

23-year-old Francis-Macrae, who went by the online moniker of "Weaselboy", is said to have earned more than £100,000 a week by selling bogus .eu internet domain names from his father's house in St Neots, Cambridgeshire.

Businesses who complained about being sold the domain names were mail-bombed with millions of junk emails, and investigating police officers were told that their headquarters would be petrol-bombed.

Francis-Macrae was found guilty at Peterborough Crown Court of fraudulent trading, concealing criminal property, threatening to destroy or damage property, blackmail, and making death threats. Investigators claim that he has refused to divulge where he has hidden more than £1.1 million.

Francis-Macrae sent unsolicited emails to thousands of people offering to pre-register .eu domain names before they were released by the regulatory body. He spent his fortune on designer clothes and helicopter lessons.

"Peter Francis-Macrae's stiff sentence sends out a clear message to others who may be tempted to engage in internet crime. The details of how he threatened those who got in the way of his crime spree make harrowing reading," said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant for Sophos. "We hope other young people will think twice before making the mistakes this man made, and not be tempted by a life of cybercrime. The public can consider themselves safer now Francis-Macrae is behind bars."

"You deceived hundreds of people of countless thousands of pounds of their money. When investigated, following the countless complaints of your misdeeds, you resorted to threats to kill and a threat to set fire to property, and ultimately blackmail," said Judge Nicholas Coleman. "Whoever stood in the way of your criminality became subject to abuse and threats. You are, I think, one of the most vindictive young men I have ever seen."

Detective Constable Jody Faro told reporters after the hearing that police had dealt with more than 2000 complaints around the globe about Francis-Macrae's business dealings.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend businesses from the threats of both spam and viruses.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.