Spitzer Settles with Alleged Spammer Richter

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer reached a settlement with Scott Richter and his company, OptInRealBig.com, ending Spitzer’s pursuit of the alleged spammer for now.

Richter has agreed to pay $50,000 and to abstain from using falsified header information and deceptive routing and domain purchase practices in all future operations. He must also provide Spitzer’s office with a complete set of his customer information and purchase records, as well as copies of all email advertisements he sends.

“This settlement holds Richter and his company to a new standard of accountability in their delivery of emails,” said Spitzer. “If he does not fulfill these standards, he will find himself back in court, facing greater penalties.”

Steve Richter, lawyer and father to Scott Richter, told ClickZ the small size of the settlement suggests the Attorney General’s investigation turned up nothing that was worth prosecuting. He said Spitzer has not imposed any requirements on the company that it had not already undertaken on its own.

“There has been no factual finding by anyone that OptinRealBig is a spammer… no conclusion that there was any violation of New York State law that would require prosecution of this case,” he said.

Spitzer’s original suit, filed in December 2003, charged Richter, his company, and his clients with sending unsolicited emails with falsified headers and subject lines; and accused them of using a network of approximately 500 vulnerable computers to do so. The investigation culled messages sent to several Hotmail accounts that Spitzer’s office set up specifically to investigate spam activity.

The attorney general trumpeted the new settlement as a milestone in the quest to achieve oversight of commercial emailers. However, the agreed upon penalty of $50,000 is far below the $20 million Spitzer originally sought.

“We believe Scott Richter is clearing several million dollars a month in profits from his illegal activities,” Spitzer declared at the time the suit was filed. “That’s why we are seeking heavy damages. The penalties we are seeking are sufficient to wipe out whatever profits he made.”

The tone he struck following yesterday’s settlement was quite a bit more conciliatory.

“The most complex aspect of spam investigations is efficiently identifying and locating those responsible,” Spitzer said. “This agreement will allow us a measure of transparency into the practices of one of the biggest distributors of commercial emails in the world.”

Other lawsuits against Synergy6, Justin Champion, Delta Seven Communications, Paul Boes, and Denny Cole, all named in the complaint for assisting illegal spam activities, will continue. A separate action brought by Microsoft in Washington State seeking additional damages is also outstanding.

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