The organization that oversees the Internet domain name registration industry last week revoked the charter of Dynamic Dolphin, a registrar that has long been closely associated with spam and cybercrime.
The move came almost five years after this reporter asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to investigate whether the man at the helm of this registrar was none other than Scottie Richter, an avowed spammer who has settled multi-million-dollar spam lawsuits with Facebook, Microsoft and MySpace over the past decade.
According to the contracts that ICANN requires all registrars to sign, registrars may not have anyone as an officer of the company who has been convicted of a criminal offense involving financial activities. While Richter’s spam offenses all involve civil matters, this reporter discovered several years ago that Richter had actually pleaded guilty in 2003 to a felony grand larceny charge.
Richter’s felony rap was detailed in a January 2004 story in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News; a cached copy of that story is here. It explains that Denver police were investigating a suspected fencing operation involving the purchase and sale of stolen goods by Richter and his associates. Richter, then 32, was busted for conspiring to deal in stolen goods, including a Bobcat, a generator, laptop computers, cigarettes and tools. He later pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny, and was ordered to pay nearly $38,000 in restitution to cover costs linked to the case.
After reading this story, I registered with the Colorado state courts Website and purchased a copy of the court record detailing Richter’s conviction — available at this link (PDF) — and shared it with ICANN. I also filed an official request with ICANN (PDF) to determine whether Richter was in fact listed as a principal in Dynamic Dolphin. ICANN responded in 2008 that it wasn’t clear whether he was in fact listed as an officer of the company.
But in a ruling issued last week, ICANN said that analysis changed after it had an opportunity to review information regarding Dynamic Dolphin’s voting shares.
“Prior to this review, ICANN had no knowledge that Scott Richter was the 100% beneficial owner of Dynamic Dolphin,” ICANN wrote. “In light of this review, ICANN initiates a review of the application for accreditation from 2011. Based on Section II. B. of the Statement of Registrar Accreditation Policy, Dynamic Dolphin did not disclose in its application for accreditation that Scott Richter was the 100% beneficial owner of Dynamic Dolphin or that Scott Richter was convicted in 2003 for a felony relating to financial activities.”
ICANN has ordered that Dynamic Dolphin be stripped of its accreditation as a registrar, and that all domains registered with Dynamic Dolphin be transferred to another registrar within 28 days. Neither Richter nor a representative for Dynamic Dolphin could be immediately reached for comment.
ICANN’s action is long overdue. Writing for The Washington Post in May 2008, this author called attention to statistics gathered by anti-spam outfit Knujon (“NOJUNK” spelled backwards), which found that more than three quarters of all Web sites advertised through spam at the time were clustered at just 10 domain name registrars. Near the top of that list was Dynamic Dolphin, a registrar owned by an entity called CPA Empire, which in turn is owned by Media Breakaway LLC – Richter’s company. Another story published around that same time by The Washington Post showed that Media Breakaway was behind the wholesale hijacking of some 65,586 Internet addresses from a San Francisco, Calif. organization that was among the early pioneers of the Internet.
Interestingly, this is the second time that ICANN has acted in response to information presented by this author regarding convicted criminals running domain registrars in violation of ICANN’s rules. Three months after I wrote that story for The Post about Media Breakaway, I penned a column highlighting the massive amount of fraudulent and malicious sites being registered through an infamous Estonian domain registrar known as EstDomains. In that story, I pointed out that the company’s principal, a then-27-year-old Estonian man named Vladimir Tsastsin, had recently been convicted in his native country of credit card fraud, money laundering, and forgery.
ICANN ultimately decided that Tsastsin’s criminal convictions meant that EstDomains had violated ICANN’s registrar agreement, and stripped EstDomains of its power to register new domains. Tsastsin would later be indicted and arrested for his role in the development of the massive DNSChanger botnet, a global malware contagion that infected more than four million computers worldwide.
For a hilarious interview with
spammer high-volume email deployer Scottie Richter, check out this 2004 segment from Comedy’s Central’s Daily Show.