Boca spammer refuses Microsoft settlement offer George Merwyn allegedly sent phony ‘Viagra’ e-mails from his $2.5 million home

Published Tuesday, April 12, 2005 1:00 am
by By Sean Salai

An alleged Boca Raton spammer who sent millions of e-mails hawking fake Viagra from his posh Blue Inlet home has refused a $100,000 settlement offer from Microsoft in an ongoing lawsuit, the Boca Raton News learned Monday.

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In a Feb. 14 letter obtained by the Boca News, Seattle attorney Theodore J. Angelis offered to drop Microsoft’s lawsuit against George Merwyn of 777 Marine Drive in exchange for the $100,000 payoff “if this matter can be resolved in the next week or so, without significant, further expenditures on our part.”

“I trust that you will recognize that offer as a significant compromise from the multi-million dollar judgment that could be awarded if this matter goes forward,” Angelis wrote to Merwyn’s attorney. “Likewise, I trust that you will recognize that Microsoft has already incurred significant fees in locating and litigating against your client, and would be seeking the recovery of those fees in the lawsuit.”

The conditions of Microsoft’s proposed settlement also included a permanent injunction that would have barred Merwyn and his roughly 50 accomplices, including his wife, from using Microsoft software including MSN internet access and MSN Hotmail.

But a Microsoft spokeswoman said Monday that Merwyn, whom they accuse of using an MSN Hotmail account to send the unsolicited e-mails all over the world, had ignored the offer.

Merwyn could not be reached for comment. A Boca News reporter who approached the wrought iron gates of his $2.5 million home in Blue Inlet observed two guard dogs barking in the courtyard, but could not locate a buzzer for visitors.

A neighbor said Merwyn spent the day at a local hospital with his pregnant wife Rachel, waiting for doctors to induce labor.

Merwyn’s Seattle attorney, Christopher Lee of Rohde & Van Kampen PLLC, also would not comment on the case.

Viagra is a legitimate sexual potency drug for men. Microsoft investigators said Merwyn and his accomplices promoted their fake Viagra through a Puerto Rico affiliate program called Webmed-RX, but provided fake contact information for the company in their e-mails.

“The spam in question used a wide range of alleged false and deceptive features, including ‘spoofed’ headers, which made the spam appear that it was coming from reputable Internet Service Providers,” said Aaron Kornblum, a Microsoft Internet Safety Enforcement lawyer. “The e-mail was also allegedly sent using ‘open proxies’ or hijacked computers, which are unsecure computers through which spammers route e-mail to hide the point of origin and their identities.”

Microsoft officials did not estimate how much money the Merwyn gang made from the scheme, which sought victims’ credit card numbers.

Their lawsuit, dubbed Microsoft Corp. v. Merwyn et al, is pending before a Washington Superior Court judge in King County.

The issue of spam e-mails made worldwide headlines on Friday, when a North Carolina judge upheld a nine-year prison sentence for convicted spammer Jeremy Jaynes, who sent more than 10 million junk e-mails a day. It was the first prison sentence ever handed down for the crime in the United States.

On Monday, a newly released Pew survey found that 28 percent of Americans report seeing more spam in their in-boxes this year, but because less of it is pornographic, they’re “not as upset.”

Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@bocanews.com or 561-893-6427.