The State of Florida filed a five count civil lawsuit against two Tampa, Florida, residents for sending more than 65,000 illegal e-mail messages and running 75 fraudulent Web sites in the last year, according to a statement from the office of State Attorney General Charlie Crist.
Scott Filary, 25, and Donald E. Townsend, 34, are charged with sending thousands of e-mail messages advertising online pharmacies, cigarette sales and illegal movie downloads. The case is the first to test a new state antispam law. If found guilty, the two men could be forced to pay US$24 million in fines.
Microsoft Corp. cooperated with the Florida attorney general and collected the illegal e-mail messages through its MSN Hotmail e-mail service. The company issued a statement on Monday lauding the suits and said actions like those by Florida will help end illegal spam, according to a company statement.
Filary and Townsend are charged with violating the federal CAN-SPAM Act, Florida’s Electronic Mail Communications Act and the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, according to the statement.
Around 30 percent of the e-mail sent by the pair contained false subject lines, false business contact information or used address spoofing to disguise the message’s origin, the attorney general’s office said. The duo also allegedly registered more than 350 Internet domain names in the 12 months, using the name “J. Scott” and a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, post office box as a contact. Those sites were used to run fraudulent businesses, such as online pharmacies that charged customers large, undisclosed “dispensing fees” with each purchase.
The Web sites were often only operated for a few days before disappearing, then reappearing at a new Web address. Spam drove customers to the site.
The lawsuit is just the latest example of companies turning to the courts to find relief from spammers and online identity thieves. On Thursday, Microsoft filed 117 civil lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against alleged phishers trying to scam Microsoft customers out of personal information such as credit card numbers.