Abbott Spanks Spammers

AG secures more than $10 million settlement against former UT-student-turned-super-spammer Ryan Pitylak and partners

Attorney General Greg Abbott
Attorney General Greg Abbott (Photo By Jana Birchum)

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced on June 7 that he has secured a settlement of more than $10 million against former UT-student-turned-super-spammer Ryan Pitylak, his e-spammin' partners Mark Trotter, Gary Trappler, and Allan Rafaeli, and their potted meat "businesses," LeadPlex, PayPerAction, and Eastmark Technology, Ltd. Abbott sued the spammers under Texas' Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the Texas Electronic Mail Solicitation Act, and the federal CAN-SPAM Act, claiming Pitylak and his partners sent millions of unsolicited and misleading e-mails to computer users in Texas and across the country, ostensibly advertising services, but in truth only aiming to "trick consumers into responding" in order to get people to reveal personal information that Pitylak and pals would then sell for $28 a pop.

It appears the spam kings had a nice run until karma – in the form of Abbott's 2004 lawsuit – caught them by the tail: According to settlement papers filed in federal district court, the spammers' three companies failed to respond to Abbott's suit, triggering a default judgment against them – for a total of $7.5 million in fines ($25,000 per day for 300 days); while Pitylak, Trotter, Trappler, and Rafaeli individually have been permanently enjoined from continuing their spamming ways and have agreed to additional fines totaling just over $2.8 million. (Pitylak was ordered to pay $1 million in civil penalties and $225,000 in attorney and investigative fees; Trotter was ordered to pay $1 million in penalties and $40,000 in attorney fees, and Rafaeli was ordered to pay $500,000 in penalties and $40,000 in fees. The court dismissed individual claims against Trappler.) Court papers note that the settlement does not insulate the spammers from additional liability in suits brought by individuals – meaning that while the Abbott suit might have hit their pockets pretty hard, the financial pains may only get worse.

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