Sanford Wallace, a well-known email marketer, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison by a federal judge in California. The sentence follows Wallace’s guilty plea in connection with charges of electronic mail fraud and criminal contempt of court.

What was the nature of the email marketing operation that landed Wallace in hot water?

The email marketing campaign at issue involved utilization of a Facebook account to retrieve Facebook users’ friend lists in order to send email messages to those friends. These email messages were designed to direct users to websites that users believed their friends were recommending. In reality, Wallace earned money each time the users visited the websites and entered their respective personal information. Wallace would then store the users’ information to send additional subsequent email messages. The campaign has ultimately resulted in over $1 billion in assessed fines and a guilty plea for electronic mail fraud.

Email Marketers: Protect Yourself

As Wallace’s experience illustrates, data collection, sharing and marketing practices must comply with applicable state and federal law. In the email marketing space, it is particularly important that list owners and list managers carefully follow these regulations or face significant liability. Given the regulatory climate, email marketers are well-advised to retain qualified legal counsel to ensure that all email list management protocols comport with applicable law and industry best practices.