March 11, 2009
Martin Bowling Sentenced to Three Years for Computer Fraud
Search marketing wizard Martin Bowling was sentenced to three years in a West Virginia state prison for computer fraud after confessing his use of stolen credit card numbers for personal purchases. The items, which included cigars, works of art and movie tickets, were primarily purchased online. According to a report in the Charleston Gazette, Bowling plead guilty to using stolen credit cards to spend approximately $4490 on cigars, posters, a home brew beer making kit, kitchen utensils and electronics, an Xbox, Victoria's Secret merchandise, a hard drive, a Zune and a self-cleaning cat litter box. Bowling was chief technical officer for Comar Inc., a manufacturer of medial and pharmaceutical supplies. He was aslo chief technical officer for the Cross Lanes WV search marketing firm, VEC3. He is probably best known in the web marketing community as a conference speaker, writer, software developer and, ironically, as a reputation management specialist. Bowling developed the Zi.ma website address shortening application which is extremely popular with Twitter users. (Zi.ma is now redirected to TinyURL.) He was also very well known on Twitter with over 1300 followers. Very few people in the industry were aware of his legal problems and nobody knew the extent of them. Stunned coworkers also knew little to nothing about his trial or pending sentencing. Court documents suggest that Bowling accessed the subscriber database of a company he used to work for, Woodcraft Magazine, in order to get the names and card numbers of at least five American Express cardholders. No mention was made of any breaches of customer security at Comar or VEC3. When arrested in July 2007 while picking up movie tickets, Bowling made a full confession to police. He was tried in November 2008 and sentenced to three years in state prison on March 5, 2009. He is currently being held in West Virginia's South Central Regional Jail awaiting transfer to a state prison. Though sentenced to three years, Bowling, who has had no previous convictions, is likely to be eligible for parole within the next twelve months.