AOL puts heat on Sunshine State spammers

America Online reported Wednesday that it has filed a civil suit against four Florida-based individuals who the company believes are responsible for sending massive amounts of spam e-mail to its members. The giant Internet service provider said it brought the case in the U.S. District Court of Florida, Orlando Division, because the so-called "Sunshine State spammers" violated the Virginia Computer Crimes Act, Federal Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, and Florida common law, by sending an avalanche of unsolicited e-mail to its subscribers. In the suit, AOL seeks damages of $1.6 million, in addition to other forms of compensation, including potential asset forfeiture.

According to Dulles, Va.-based AOL, the Florida defendants teamed up with parties in Thailand to barrage AOL members with more than 35 million spam messages over the course of several years. The company said it first became aware of the group in January 2003 via a wave of 1.5 million user complaints and immediately launched an investigation into the spammer's operations. The scheme reportedly involved an onslaught of e-mail messages loaded with hypertext links advertising low-mortgage rate offers for AOL members.

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