Washington - United States regulators said on Thursday that they obtained a court order shutting down a sex-orientated spam operation that sent out millions of emails urging recipients to "date lonely housewives".
The Federal Trade Commission said a federal court in Chicago issued an order freezing the assets of the operation, which officials said "violates nearly every provision of the CAN-SPAM Act" - the federal law aimed at curbing unwanted email.
Named in the FTC complaint were California-based Cleverlink Trading Limited, Real World Media, LLC and their owners, Brian Muir, Jesse Goldberg and Caleb Wolf Wickman.
The FTC said they control more than 180 websites.
According to the FTC, the messages are designed to make the recipients believe they come from "a purported Internet dating service containing lonely housewives who want casual sexual relationships".
"The purpose of the spam is to make money," the FTC complaint said. "The spam messages drive consumers to websites soliciting consumers to purchase access to the defendants' main membership site. The money that consumers pay for the membership site access goes directly to (the) defendants. In a four-month period alone, (the) defendants took in nearly $700 000 in membership fees."
The operators used an offshore payment processor on the Caribbean island of St Kitts and used a Cyprus-based company name and address to front the operation.
The FTC said the operation violated virtually every provision of the US spam law, by routing messages through other people's computers, falsifying contact email addresses and failing to give recipients a way to stop receiving the messages.
The spam also includes sexual materials in the initially viewable area of the email, in violation of the FTC's adult labelling rule.
A hearing is pending on an injunction and an FTC request to recover "ill-gotten gains" of the operation. - Sapa-AFP