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Man faces $9.9M penalty for robocalls targeting Charlottesville households during Unite the Right trial

A federal court in Montana entered a $9.9 million penalty against a man found responsible for causing thousands of unlawful and malicious “spoofed” robocalls to consumers nationwide, authorities said Friday.

Judge Dana L. Christensen also imposed an injunction Tuesday against Scott Rhodes prohibiting any future violations of the Truth in Caller ID Act and Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.

Rhodes, who in 2021 was reported to be living in Libby, Montana, was listed with the court as now living in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. His telephone number listed with the court documents was not working Friday. Efforts to immediately reach him for comment were unsuccessful.

He represented himself in court, according to federal documents.

The case against Rhodes grew out of a Federal Communications Commission investigation into unlawful robocalls received by people in states, including Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa and Virginia. Newsweek reported he had made more than 5,000 robocalls.

The calls displayed inaccurate caller IDs indicating they were from local phone numbers, inducing the recipients to answer the calls and listen to the recorded messages. Those messages included highly inflammatory and disturbing content, often directed at certain communities, that intended to offend or harm the recipients, authorities said.

For example, hundreds of the spoofed robocalls targeted residents of the Brooklyn, Iowa, area in the aftermath of a local woman’s murder, authorities said.

More than 2,000 of the robocalls targeted residents of Charlottesville, during the investigation and prosecution of James Alex Fields Jr., the neo-Nazi who killed an anti-racist counterprotester and injured several others during the Unite the Right rally-turned-riot in the city in 2017.

Many people called submitted complaints to the FCC and other law enforcement agencies.

The FCC traced the robocalls to Rhodes, and in January 2021, the agency imposed a $9,918,000 forfeiture penalty against him, officials said.

Later that year, the Justice Department sued Rhodes in the District of Montana to recover that penalty and obtain an injunction.

In October 2023, the United States moved for summary judgment, and the court subsequently entered an injunction and the full $9,918,000 forfeiture penalty against Rhodes.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said they were pleased by the court’s judgment.

U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich for the District of Montana said Friday most Montanans have been the subject of robocalls and the person responsible usually escapes accountability.

“But not this time," he said in a statement. "In placing thousands of harassing and malicious spoofing calls to consumers across the country, Rhodes showed a blatant disregard to caller ID and telephone consumer protection laws designed to prevent this sort of conduct."

Assistant Director Patrick Runkle, trial attorney Michael Wadden, trial attorney Amanda Kelly, investigator Giovan Aloisio and senior deputy director Lisa Hsiao of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch handled the case with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon Clarke.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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