The lawsuit, which is Florida's first under its 9-month-old anti-spam law, accuses Scott J. Filary, 25, and Donald E. Townsend, 34, of sending or helping to send more than 65,000 deceptive emails. The emails contained false or misleading subject lines, or used false information to disguise thier origin.
The men, both Tampa residents, face penalties of up to $500 per email, for a total penalty of $24 million.
Crist's lawsuit alleges that the emails sent by Filary and Townsend directed recipients to fraudulent or illegal business activities, including pharmaceutical and cigarette sales and downloading of copyrighted movies.
"Spam is a pervasive and growing threat to unsuspecting computer users everywhere," Crist said in a prepared statement. "The spam itself is illegal, but it is made even worse when it seeks to rip off Florida consumers."
Crist credited Microsoft with helping to detect the suspects' activity. Microsoft captured the unlawful emails through its MSN Hotmail trap accounts and provided them to the attorney general.
Florida's anti-spam law, which took effect last July, bans unsolicted commercial email with false subject lines or misleading headers that try to hide the origin of the message.
Filary and Townsend face additional penalties under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act for deceptive emails sent before the anti-spam law took effect and for violating several state and federal laws, including the federal CAN-SPAM law.