Texas has become the latest state to attempt to put a stop to spammers when it launched a lawsuit against a University of Texas student and a California resident.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called Ryan Samuel Pitylak of Austin and Mark Stephen Trotter of Encinitas, Calif., two of the nation´s “most prolific spammers” in an Austin press conference detailing the multi-million dollar civil action.
Abbott said Pitylak and Trotter engaged in “reaching out and harassing hundreds of thousands of people across the United States” in a fraudulent e-mail scheme involving misleading subject lines.
The lawsuit accuses the two of pitching mortgage services – in spite of having no license to provide such services in Texas. Consumers were also “tricked” out of their personal information – the duo would promise privacy and then turn around and sell leads and personal data for as much as $28 per person.
“We want to make clear that these defendants we are suing today and any other spammers in the State of Texas can´t hide behind a computer screen any longer,” Abbott said at the press conference. “Sending spam with misleading subject lines violate both federal and state law and there is a very heavy price to pay for that illegal spamming.”
Abbott said he was suing Pitylak and Trotter under the federal Can Spam Act, the Texas Electronic Mail and Solicitation Act and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Violations of the Can Spam Act carry penalties of $250 per violation, up to $2 million. The Texas spam violations allow for fines of up to $10 per unlawful e-mail or $25,000 per day.
Under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, penalties are authorized for up to $20,000 per violation.
The duo were caught by several “spam traps” setup by Microsoft and the Texas Attorney General – where more than 24,000 spam messages were tracked. Further investigation will proceed in cooperation with the Federal Trade Commission.
Last summer, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced more than a hundred individuals were arrested and charged in a federal computer and Internet-related crime sweep known as Operation Web Snare. In all, Ashcroft said, approximately 350 individuals were targeted for major forms of online economic crime and other cybercrimes, resulting in 103 arrests and 53 convictions.