UPDATE: Missouri brothers sentenced to probation in spamming case

Friday, September 16, 2011 | 1:02 p.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY — After hearing praise and pleas for leniency for two Missouri brother involved in a nationwide spamming scheme, a federal judge sentenced the men to three years of probation and ordered them to forfeit nearly $500,000 in gains from the scheme.

Amir Ahmad Shah, 30, and Osmaan Ahmad Shah, 27, were sentenced Thursday for stealing student email addresses at hundreds of colleges and universities, including MU, where Osmaan Shah was a student. They then sent spam promoting various products and services to the students.

Their sentences included three months of home detention and three months at a halfway house. The Shahs and their company, i2o Inc., also were ordered to forfeit $439,820 in cash and property. This included properties in St. Louis and Columbia and two luxury cars.

The brothers, both of Ballwin, pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy and fraud charges for violating a federal anti-spamming law. At the time, they ran a legitimate online business that sold consumer items such as refurbished iPods, teeth-whitening kits and pepper spray to college students, lawyers said.

However, they developed programs that illegally captured more than 8 million student email addresses then used a database to send unsolicited messages selling various products and services, prosecutors said.

The Shahs also admitted their scheme involved using bandwidth provided by the MU's computer networkand caused damage to the network and its users. The network was damaged by the large amount of network resources and bandwidth used during the transmission of millions of spam emails through its system, The Columbia Tribune reported.

Before the Shahs were sentenced, U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs heard several people endorse the brothers' business abilities and their character. Their current employers credited them with improving their businesses and helping save jobs, The Kansas City Star reported.

While free on bond after their indictment in April 2009, the brothers helped the St. Louis Post-Dispatch develop procedures and management systems for its online advertising, according to a letter filed on their behalf with the court. And the owner of a Missouri firm that serves the aerospace industry testified that the brothers helped save 40 machine shop jobs when the company was on the verge of closing.

"In four months, they turned the operation around," said Sarwar Ahmed, president of Carden Machine Shop Inc. "America needs hardworking men like these setting the standards, not sitting in jail."

Co-defendant Paul Zucker, 58, of Wayne, N.J., pleaded guilty in July to his role in the conspiracy and was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $7,562 in restitution.

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