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Russian spam murder spins web hoax

By Simon Aughton

Posted on 12 Oct 2007 at 11:37

Reports that the Russian mafia have bumped off a notorious Viagra spammer appear to have been a carefully-crafted hoax.

Picking up on a Releaselog blog post, a large number of sites reported that Alexey Tolstokozhev was found in his house near Moscow peppered with bullet holes, including one in his head. That, according to the authorities, is a mark of local hitmen.

Tolstokozhev was said to be responsible for as much as 30% of all Viagra and penis enlargement spam. His emails reportedly linked to pharmacy retailers that then handed him a cut of their revenues, that is estimated to have totalled more than $2 million in this year alone.

However, the reports now seem to be a hoax. Tolstokozhev proved to be the figment of releaselog blogger Alex Loonov's imagination. In fact Loonov's hosting company, EST Domains, appears to be the real villain, having attracted numerous complaints that it hosts malware.

Mr Loonov, if indeed he exists, may be well advised not to answer the door to strangers for a while.

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