Washington Settles State’s First Can-Spam Suit

May 25, 2006 2:58 AM  By

The state of Washington has settled with representatives of two California businesses it accused of spamming the Seattle school district in violation of the federal Can-Spam Act, the state’s attorney general announced Tuesday. The settlement ends Washington’s first lawsuit brought under the Can-Spam Act.

Arlene Sediqzad, also known as Arlene Grant, of Woodland Hills, CA, has agreed to pay $10,000 in legal costs and $180,000 in civil penalties, according to Washington’s attorney general, Rob McKenna.

Also, Min Hui Zhao, also known as Michael Zhao, of Arcadia, CA has agreed to pay $10,000 to settle claims against himself and his company MD&I, according to McKenna’s office.

The settlement follows a related judgment against the California marketing firm Sediqzad managed, AvTech Direct. AvTech was ordered last December by a federal judge to pay $3 million in civil penalties and $375,000 in restitution to the Seattle school district as a result of a lawsuit filed by McKenna’s office.

The judge ordered AvTech to pay $2,000 each for 1,500 unsolicited e-mails sent to the Seattle school district between May and July of 2004.

A judge also ordered AvTech’s owner, Gary Hunziker, also of California, to pay $500,000 in civil penalties and $10,000 in restitution to the Seattle school district, according to McKenna’s office.

AvTech has gone under. The settlement announced yesterday was reached with the rest of the individuals named in the suit. AvTech marketed computer hardware on behalf of MD&I, according to McKenna’s office.

“This is why it’s important to name individuals when we sue corporations, since the corporation can disappear,” said Assistant Attorney General Katherine Tassi. “This way we can hold the individuals liable.”

According to McKenna’s office, AvTech altered and concealed header information to make it look like its e-mail messages were sent from other sources, used deceptive subject lines such as “Staff Bulletin,” and continued sending e-mail to people who requested to be removed from AvTech’s list—all illegal under the Can-Spam Act.

Though the suit was Washington’s first under the Can-Spam Act, it was not the first nationally. Peter Moshou, of Auburndale, FL, also known as “The Timeshare Spammer,” was sentenced last November to a year in prison and ordered to pay EarthLink $120,000 in restitution as the result of a lawsuit brought by the Internet service provider under the Can-Spam Act.