Spam Scam Almost Works

Practically everyone in the San Jose political community recently received an email asking for financial assistance from a faraway land—but it didn’t come from a Nigerian prince. Instead, it came from a scammer posing as local political consultant and aspiring lawyer Rolando Bonilla, whose email account was hacked. “It’s me Rolando—I really don’t mean to inconvenience you right now, I made a trip to Scotland and I misplaced my passport and credit cards,” the imposter wrote.

As if to explain that he had gotten drugged and woke up in a bathtub missing a kidney, the email went on: “This may sound odd, but it all happened very fast.” A phone number for a presumably fake hotel is included, as well as Bonilla’s real email signature and the predictable plea: “I’m short of funds to pay for my ticket and other miscellaneous expenses. I’m willing to pay back as soon as I return home.”

One person who was more than a little surprised to be included in the email chain was fellow poli-con Jay Rosenthal. The two have had an, ahem, adversarial relationship over the years, and Bonilla and his business partner, Ryan Ford, took Rosenthal to court in January after Rosenthal launched a prank website with the URL (The case was summarily dismissed.)

Rosenthal’s reaction to the faux cry for help: “When I saw that I received an email from Rolando, I was surprised,” he said. “When I was saw that he was asking for large sums of money, I was less so.” It is not clear whether the ordinarily sharp Rosenthal immediately caught on to the fact that the email was a spam scam.

Bonilla says the ordeal has been a headache, but it’s been nice to see how many people have reached out to make sure he was OK.

The Fly is the valley’s longest running political column, written by Metro Silicon Valley staff, to provide a behind-the-scenes look at local politics. Fly accepts anonymous tips.


  1. Yea, but would you want to do business with political consultants that had their email account hacked and your private emails with juicy details could end up on Merc’s front page or with their client’s opponents

    – Don’t think so

    Another unprofessional embarrassment for Rolando and Ryan

    – No surprise

    Was it another dirty trick or poor security spam scam

    • You are right on the money.  Who would be foolish enough to hire these “aspiring lawyers”  (doesn’t that translate to can’t-pass-the-bar?) as their consultants when they can’t even manage simple spam protection 101.

      What a bunch of losers.  Its beyond professional embarrassment at this point.

  2. Earlier today, some emailers managed to put a smear on Rich Robinson with another blog, blaming him for a series of anonymous flyers attacking Barry Chang in Cupertino.


    A look at the twitter account, ANGRYBARRY, shows that the “following” list resembles twitter pages set up by Victor Ajlouny, who specializes in anonymous smears.  Victor has no love for Robinson, who is a competitor in the county and Milpitas.

    Victor is the likely suspect, as he is connected to Jon Fleischman, a Republican leader in Orange County and friend of Ajlouny.

    Hit Chang, blame it on another person, and Ajlouny’s greasy fingerprints are nowhere on it, but the twitter page is set up by a person with little knowledge of Twitter, and Victor’s other pages match it.

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