Washington state settles school spam case

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Washington state has settled a lawsuit with two Californian spammers accused of bombarding the Seattle School District and other organizations with junk email.

The settlement marks an end to the state's first anti-spam lawsuit and brings the total penalties, restitution and other fines assessed in the case to more than $4.1 million.

The attorney general’s Consumer Protection High-Tech Unit sued AvTech Direct, a now-defunct California marketing firm, and MD&I, a California-based corporation that sells computers, in October 2004 in U.S. District Court. The suit charged the businesses and their owners with violations of federal anti-spam laws, Washington’s anti-spam act, and the state Consumer Protection Act for sending unsolicited e-mails to employees of non-profit organizations.

A judge entered a defeault order against AvTech in December 2005 after the company’s legal counsel withdrew from the case and AvTech failed to obtain new representation. The company was fined $3 million in civil penalties – $2,000 for each of 1,500 unsolicited commercial e-mails sent to the Seattle School District between May and July 2004. AvTech was also ordered to pay $375,000 restitution to the Seattle School District and $67,882 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

“Spam costs businesses billions in lost productivity and other expenses,” said state Attorney General Rob McKenna. “Deceptive e-mails are not only a nuisance, but illegal. This lawsuit will help offset some of the damage done to the Seattle School District, whose employees were peppered with annoying advertisements, and sends a message to other spammers that breaking the law can lead to serious penalties.”

The state has since reached settlements with two of the remaining defendants and was granted summary judgment against the final defendant.

Earlier this month, Gary T. Preston, of Queens, N.Y., agreed to pay $7,200 in legal costs and attorneys’ fees with Washington state.

His company, White Plains, N.Y.,-based Secure Computer, was 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.

Last month, two Washington state spammers settled charges of mass-spamming with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC sued Matthew Olson and Jennifer LeRoy in November 2005 after an investigation concluded that the duo had hijacked customers’ computers to spam other PCs, according to the FTC.

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition

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