The emails urged recipients to "date lonely wife". Users would be under the impression they would be going to an website for women wanting casual relationships. According to the FTC, the operation's websites solicited consumers to purchase access to the defendants' main membership site. It alleges "in a four month period alone, defendants took in nearly $700,000 in membership fees."
It said U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve, presiding in Chicago, issued an order freezing the assets of the operation, which officials said "violates nearly every provision of the CAN-SPAM Act."
"It contains misleading headers and deceptive subject lines. It does not contain a link to allow consumers to opt out of receiving future spam, does not contain a valid postal address, and does not contain the disclosure, required by law, that it is sexually explicit," the FTC said in a statement.
The commission also said messages contained "sexual materials in the initially viewable area of the email", in violation of the FTC's Adult Labeling Rule.
The FTC named Cleverlink Trading Limited, Real World Media, LLC and their principles, Brian D. Muir, Jesse Goldberg, and Caleb Wolf Wickman in the complaint. The defendants are based in California.
The FTC said the complaint was brought about with assistance from Microsoft.
As reported earlier this week, The FTC launched an international effort to crack down on the use of zombie computers by spammers.
Microsoft was busy in the courts in early April, when it filed 117 civil lawsuits against unnamed phishers trying to steal personal and financial information from its customers.