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Spam Sandwich

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He wasn't the only one to go down. Among those also indicted was John Holmes, who was elected to a Broward County judgeship in the early '70s as a motorcycle-riding 29-year-old who advocated the legalization of marijuana. After stepping down as judge, Holmes represented high-profile drug dealers, including Marin.

In fact, Holmes became so closely linked to Marin's cocaine enterprise that the former judge was forced to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute cocaine. Among Holmes' duties for Marin, according to the indictment, was to provide information about law-enforcement investigations and advise witnesses to flee rather than provide potentially damaging grand-jury testimony against Marin. For his guilty plea, Holmes received 27 months in prison. In December 2000, the former judge was found dead at age 56 in a pay-by-the-week motel from complications of alcoholism.

Marin's last major legal run-in came in October 1997. Federal prosecutors indicted him and Marin Spariosu, who in 1999 bribed a federal corrections officer to keep quiet about the escape plans of imprisoned drug kingpin Salvador Magluta, for an alleged scheme to launder drug money. Marin pleaded guilty and received one year in prison plus three years of supervised release.

Then came the Internet boom. By 2000, Marin reportedly had taken over an adult web company called Opt-In Services. During Internet porn's infancy, Opt-In Services employed exotic dancers to provide one-on-one private shows online for $6 per minute. Marin later dismissed the dancers and sold archived photos and videos, he told the Miami Herald in an article about Internet porn. "You don't have to baby-sit them," he said of the dancers. "And I save $35,000 a month."

Running the porn site coincidentally gave Marin his first taste of spam. "He made a little bit of money [from Opt-In Services] and spammed to support it," says Brower, who has followed Marin's endeavors in junk e-mail. "But when real businessmen realized they could make money at porn, he got put out of business."

That's when Marin apparently moved to spam in a big way. Among those who work to blacklist IP addresses associated with spammers, Eddy Marin is a familiar name. "He's one of the better-known and one of the more prosperous spammers," Brower says. "He's gone out of his way to make himself a poster boy for unwanted e-mail."

Marin was linked circumstantially to a now-defunct organization that sued Brower and other spam fighters and lobbied in Washington for the rights of junk e-mailers. Earlier this year, Boca Raton lawyer Mark Felstein formed eMarketersAmerica.org, which sued Brower, Spamhaus, and others associated with fighting spam for, among other things, libel and damages associated with the operation of a blacklist of spammer IP addresses.

Although Felstein would never say who was behind the group, Spamhaus director Steve Linford stated publicly that he believed the organization was a front for Marin. "By no coincidence, Mark E. Felstein is also the personal lawyer of Florida's top spammer, Eddy Marin, who by no coincidence is also based in Boca Raton," Linford posted on the Spamhaus website after the lawsuit was filed. "Spamhaus therefore maintains that eMarketersAmerica.org is simply a front for Marin's spam gang."

The lawsuit became heated. One month after it was filed, Brower and Felstein met at a May 1 Federal Trade Commission workshop on junk e-mail. After the workshop, Brower remembers being bumped. "I turned around and realized it was Mr. Felstein," Brower recalls. "I said to him, recognizing who he was: 'You don't want to bump into me.'"

Felstein then went berserk, according to Brower. "Assault! Assault!" Brower remembers Felstein yelling. "I've been assaulted!"

A federal judge dismissed Felstein's eMarketersAmerica lawsuit in October. Following the dismissal, the Boca Raton attorney agreed to be interviewed about his organization and the lawsuit against spam fighters. But Felstein later canceled the appointment after he learned that New Times had inquired into why the New York Bar had denied his application due to "misconduct in college, history of substance abuse, criminal record and lack of candor since college concerning such matters," according to a court order issued June 6. (The bar could not provide additional details.)

Reached on November 18, Felstein again refused to comment about himself or Marin. "I'm really not interested in talking to reporters," he said. Marin did not respond to an interview request.

If Marin indeed runs one of the world's best-known spam operations, as Brower and other junk e-mail fighters allege, he's apparently not happy with the reputation. In January, Felstein filed lawsuits in Palm Beach County alleging that Marin had been slandered when two people posted individual messages on the Internet calling the Boca Raton businessman a spammer. Both cases are pending.

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Trevor Aaronson
Contact: Trevor Aaronson

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