Florida has sued an Indian River County man for allegedly running a bogus email operation touting a bogus fuel saver.
The complaint alleges that Rik Rodriguez, 47, is responsible for sending thousands of illegal emails that linked recipients to websites selling a device called Fuel Saver Pro that falsely claimed to increase automobile gas mileage and decrease harmful pollutants and emissions.
The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Charlie Crist's office joins Federal Trade Commission efforts against "button pushers" - paid spammers who inundate email in-boxes for commissions on product sales.
In October 2004, the FTC sued the Nevada-based company that manufactured and marketed the bogus fuel-saving device, as well as those who acted as resellers of the product online. Through the litigation, spammers who steered consumers to the websites selling the bogus products including Rodriguez were identified.
"Spam is a pervasive and growing threat to unsuspecting computer users everywhere," said Crist. "While spam is annoying, it is even worse when used to encourage recipients to spend their hard-earned money on bogus products."
Rodriguez allegedly sent or assisted the sending of more than 1,100 illegal emails to over 2,500 recipients. Many messages used false information to disguise the origin of the email, while others wrongfully concealed the sender's address by instead substituting innocent persons' names or invalid email addresses.
Rodriguez allegedly used several different computers to avoid detection, and in one instance used over 100 different computer addresses in a single day.
The spam emails were captured by Microsoft through its MSN Hotmail trap accounts and were referred to the Attorney General's Office to assist the investigation.
The emails that are the subject of this action were sent before Florida's Anti-Spam law was enacted, so the lawsuit against Rodriguez alleges violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
In addition, the emails are said to have violated the Federal CAN-SPAM law. Rodriguez faces penalties of up to $10,000 per violation of Florida law. The lawsuit will be litigated by the Attorney General's Economic Crimes Division.