Spammers on the Hook for $1.08 Billion Judgment

Rhett Pardon
DAVENPORT, Iowa — While it’s uncertain the judgments will ever be collected, three companies have been ordered to pay $1.08 billion to a small Iowa Internet service provider for burying subscribers with spam.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Wolle filed default judgments Friday against three defendants based in Arizona and Florida under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Iowa Ongoing Criminal Conduct Act.

Mesa, Ariz.-based AMP Dollar Savings Inc., which acted as a shell company for spammers, was ordered to pay $720 million; Miami, Fla.-based Cash Link Systems Inc., a company that marketed a “cashless ATM” product, was ordered to pay $360 million; and Florida-based TEI Marketing Group, which marketed spyware, was ordered to pay $140,000.

CIS Internet Services owner Robert Kramer of Clinton, Iowa, filed the suit, claiming that his company was deluged with millions of unwanted emails for months at a time. CIS provides email service to about 5,000 subscribers in eastern Iowa.

In the case of AMP Dollar Savings, Kramer told the local Iowa paper, the Clinton Herald, that the emails AMP sent were directed to mostly bogus addresses lifted from a CD-ROM titled "Bulk Mailing 4 Dummies."

Court documents showed the CD-ROM includes more than 2.8 million addresses with a CIS.net domain.

Kramer said that nearly all those addresses were fictitious and had never been assigned to CIS subscribers. But he contended the bogus addresses clogged his computers, forcing him to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade his systems.

Kramer said that while he showed logs over that five-month period, he said he could have actually shown 1-1/2 years worth of such activity.

In the consolidated case, Wolle invoked Iowa law that allows plaintiffs to claim damages of $10 for each spam message. He then tripled the damages using provisions of RICO.