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FTC v. Atkinson, et al.
On October 6, 2008, the FTC sued "a vast international spam network that peddled prescription drugs and bogus male-enhancement products." The defendants have been identified as the "#1 worst spam gang on the Internet" by the Spamhaus. The Federal Trade Commission has received more than three million complaints about spam messages connected to this operation, and estimates that it may be responsible for sending billions of illegal spam messages.
According to papers filed with the court, the defendants recruited spammers around the world to send billions of spam messages directing consumers to Web sites operated by an affiliate program called “Affking.” By using false header information to hide the origin of the messages, failing to provide an opt-out link, and failing to list a physical postal address, the defendants violated the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) Act of 2003.
The FTC says that some security researchers believe that at one time, nearly one-third of the world’s spam e-mail came from a botnet that sent spam promoting the defendants’ Web sites.
The defendants include two individuals – Lance Atkinson, a New Zealand citizen living in Australia, and Jody Smith of Texas – and four companies they control: Inet Ventures Pty Ltd., Tango Pay Inc., Click Fusion Inc., and TwoBucks Trading Limited. The FTC’s complaint alleges that both Atkinson and Smith are liable for the spamming that Lance Atkinson is responsible for all product claims, and Smith is liable for claims made for the pharmaceutical products.
Atkinson is no stranger to this process. In June 2005, the FTC obtained a $2.2 million judgment against Atkinson and another business partner for running a similar spam affiliate program that marketed herbal products.
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