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The $11 Billion Man

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There's a complicating factor in McCalla's defense, however. Another South Florida company implicated in the CIS lawsuit is not only a known spam outfit but a criminal enterprise.

Wallace, the Atlanta attorney, followed a similar crumb trail of subpoenaed information to identify Cash Link Systems, a Hollywood company headed by a man named Alan Levine and formerly known as Ameri P.O.S.

Levine's company operated a scam that bilked 900 investors nationwide out of $15 million. Cash Link sold ATM machines and told investors they could expect profits of $2,000 per month per machine after Cash Link helped them find retail establishments in which to place the ATM machines.

In 2004, the Securities and Exchange Commission shut down Cash Link Systems, claiming in its order that Levine knew he was lying to investors and that the company had netted more than $10 million from the scam in one year. Among the ways Cash Link drove traffic to its website: spam.

On December 17, 2005, Judge Wolle in Iowa placed a $360 million judgment against Cash Link in the CIS case — a record at the time. One week later, Levine was sentenced in federal court in Miami to 70 months in prison and ordered to pay $10 million in restitution after pleading guilty to mail fraud.

"There were companies in the lawsuit that were basically spamming companies," McCalla admits. He's sitting at a coffee shop in Pembroke Pines, talking to a reporter in the hopes of, as he says, clearing his name. McCalla is a tall, muscular man with short-cropped hair and a thin goatee that fronts a constant 5 o'clock shadow. He wears a white bracelet around his left wrist. It reads: "Non-violence."

If he's putting on an act to claim that he's a victim — and evidence submitted in court and available online suggests that he is acting — McCalla has been faithful to the part.

In one letter he submitted to the court, McCalla apologized for being slow in responding. He claimed his means were so few that he lacked even transportation. "I apologize for the delay in responding to your letter. I did not receive the letters... due to the fact that I did not have any means of transportation to my P.O. Box," he wrote.

That's at odds with what Wallace claims. The attorney says he has bank records — which he would not share with New Times and which were never submitted to the court — that McCalla raked in $250,000 in one quarter from one client alone. "He was getting five figures, low six figures a month," Wallace alleges.

Spammers are notorious for hiding assets, typified by the gold bullion that was among the spammer booty given away in AOL's sweepstakes last year.

Although McCalla bristles at the claim of his hidden wealth — "$250,000, I'd certainly like to have that," he says — Wolle agreed with Wallace that McCalla had sent about 280 million spam e-mails to CIS. Laws in Iowa allow civil spam judgments against spammers to be calculated at $10 per e-mail, plus punitive damages.

The judgment against McCalla: $11.2 billion.

McWilliams, the technology journalist who authored Spam Kings, became immediately intrigued by the record-setting judgment against McCalla. The reason was simple: "I'd never heard of the guy," he says.

"With an $11.2 billion judgment, I thought surely this guy would be big enough to make it on the ROKSO list," McWilliams explains. "That's the top 200 spammers. You could be an annoying loudmouth and get on the ROKSO list. This guy didn't even rise to that level. He had the misfortune of being sloppy and nailing an ISP that was savvy with spam laws."

In a short entry on his blog about spammers, McWilliams concluded that McCalla was "nothing but a chicken-boner" — a derogatory term for lower-level spammers that implies that they sit around and chew chicken bones in front of computer screens as their machines spew out e-mail after unwanted e-mail.

And McCalla's troubles haven't ended with the $11.2 billion judgment. He currently has a case pending against him in Atlanta. Representing EarthLink, Wallace's firm alleges that McCalla sent to EarthLink's servers spam that tried to collect mortgage and home refinancing leads. "James McCalla is without a doubt a spammer," Wallace alleges. Wallace says he has retained private investigators in South Florida to track down McCalla's purportedly hidden assets.

Even if McCalla is hiding his spammer loot, Wallace will have a difficult time collecting. With the AOL cases being high-profile exceptions, most spammers never pay a dime toward civil judgments.

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Trevor Aaronson
Contact: Trevor Aaronson

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