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10/27/2003
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Firm Fined $2 Million in California Anti-Spam Case

The fine levied against PW Marketing and its owners was the first under California's new anti-spam law.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A company accused of sending unsolicited bulk E-mail was fined $2 million by a judge Friday, the first such ruling under California's anti-spam law.

PW Marketing LLC and its owners, Paul Willis and Claudia Griffin, were also banned from owning, managing, or holding an economic interest in any company that advertises over the Internet without first notifying the attorney general. The injunction will remain in place for 10 years.

The company, which does not have a Web site and has been accused of operating under fictitious names, has sent millions of illegal, unsolicited E-mails advertising tools for spamming, including $39 how-to books and lists of E-mail addresses of California residents.

Prosecutors said PW Marketing violated the 1998 anti-spam law by sending unsolicited E-mail without a toll-free number for recipients to call to stop additional mailings. Its missives did not include a valid return address or the "ADV:" label to mark advertisements, which the state requires.

State attorneys also claimed the owners illegally tapped into computer users' network connections so the company could send E-mail that couldn't be traced back to its source.

Calls to Willis and Griffin, who also face a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission, were not immediately returned. Neither owner has appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose since the state filed the lawsuit in September 2002, said Tom Dresslar, spokesman for the California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

Dresslar said the state would do "everything it can within reason" to collect the money from Willis and Griffin.

Lockyer said the 10-year ban could serve as a precedent for other companies or individuals accused of sending spam.

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