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Spam King dodges $20m big stick

NY settles for $50k from Scott Richter

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Notorious spammer Scott Richter has been slapped on the wrist for the bulk mailing activities of his OptInRealBig business. But the $40,000 fine (plus $10,000 in "investigative costs") Richter will be obliged to pay in settling a lawsuit brought against him by the State of New York is more of a victory for the self-styled "Spam King" than his legal adversaries.

NY State initially sought a $20m judgement against Richter but it has settled for peanuts. Richter wasn't even forced into admitting he'd done anything wrong.

NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer does his best to portray the case as a legal victory against a "deceptive spammer" who allegedly used a network of 500 compromised computers to send millions of junk emails to hapless Hotmail users. Richter (through his lawyer, Steve Richter, who's also his father) denies any such wrongdoing.

In return for being let of the hook, Richter Junior has agreed to follow existing laws that ban deceptive email and to keep copies of his bulk mail for inspection by the State of New York. "I'm very pleased," Richter told the New York Times about the settlement, as well he might.

The case is further evidence of how difficult it can be to bring spammers to book even if they are accused of cybercrime offences as well as straightforward spamming. Spamming isn't going to be stopped in court although lawsuits might still have some beneficial effects in diverting the energies of bulk mailers away from bombarding us all with crap.

Microsoft action against Richter over the same offences remains outstanding. In addition, New York's case against Richter's co-defendants (New York-based Synergy6, Inc., Justin Champion, Delta Seven Communications, Paul Boes, and Denny Cole) is yet to be resolved. ®

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