Gary T. Preston, of Queens, N.Y., has agreed to pay $7,200 in legal costs and attorneys' fees, according to a statement issued Monday by Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. While the agreement does not mean Preston is guilty of any crime, it prohibits him from assisting any person or organization by disguising his identity.
"The attorney general's office alleges that Preston was paid for the use of his name in Secure Computer's business transactions," McKenna said. "While his activities did not directly violate Washington's spyware act, they made it much more difficult to identify the real seller of Spyware Cleaner."
Secure Computer, based in White Plains, N.Y., is accused of falsely claiming in fake system warnings that computers were infected with spyware in an attempt to encourage users to pay $49.95 for the Spyware Cleaner product. McKenna's office sued the company in January, the first lawsuit filed under the state's new anti-spyware legislation.
The suit alleges Secure Computer marketed and sold the product since at least 2004 through pop-up ads, spam emails and deceptive hyperlinks that offer a free scan. The state's investigation found that Spyware Cleaner failed to detect spyware and erased host files, making the computer vulnerable to attacks.
Last month, Zhijan Chen of Portland, Ore. was fined $84,000 by Washington State for his role as a promoter of the product.