Peter Francis-Macrae, 23, nicknamed "Weaselboy," was said to have earned more than £100,000 ($175,000) a week by selling bogus .eu internet domain names from his father's Victorian cottage in St. Neots, Cambridgeshire. Businesses who complained about being sold the domain names were bombarded with millions of junk emails, and investigating police officers were told that their headquarters would be fire-bombed.
Francis-Macrae was found guilty at Peterborough Crown Court of fraudulent trading, concealing criminal property, threatening to destroy or damage property, blackmail and threatening to kill. Investigators claimed that he has refused to divulge where he has hidden more than £1.1 million ($1.89 million). He sent unsolicited emails to thousands of people offering to pre-register .eu domain names before they were released by the regulatory body. He spent his fortune on designer clothes and helicopter lessons.
Judge Nicholas Coleman said Francis-Macrae had "deceived hundreds of people of countless thousands of pounds of their money."
"When investigated, following the countless complaints of your misdeeds, you resorted to threats to kill and a threat to set fire to property and ultimately blackmail," said Coleman. "Whoever stood in the way of your criminality became subject to abuse and threats. You are, I think, one of the most vindictive young men I have ever seen."
Security experts said the sentence sent out "a clear message to others who may be tempted to engage in internet crime."
"The details of how he threatened those who got in the way of his crime spree make harrowing reading," said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant for Sophos. "We hope other young people will think twice before making the mistakes this man made, and not be tempted by a life of cybercrime. The public can consider themselves safer now Francis-Macrae is behind bars."
Detective Constable Jody Faro told reporters after the hearing that police had dealt with more than 2,000 complaints around the globe about Francis-Macrae's business dealings.