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Press Release

Federal Court Enters $9.9M Penalty and Injunction Against Man Found to Have Caused Thousands of Unlawful Spoofed Robocalls

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

WASHINGTON – A federal court in Montana entered a $9.9 million penalty on Tuesday against a man found responsible for causing thousands of unlawful and malicious “spoofed” robocalls to consumers across the nation. The court also imposed an injunction prohibiting any future violations of the Truth in Caller ID Act and Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The case arose out of an investigation conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) into unlawful robocalls received by consumers in states including Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa and Virginia in 2018. 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. For example, hundreds of the spoofed robocalls targeted residents of the Brooklyn, Iowa, area in the aftermath of a local woman’s murder. Similarly, more than 2,000 of the spoofed robocalls targeted residents of Charlottesville, Virginia, during the investigation and prosecution of James Alex Fields Jr. for killing one woman and injuring dozens during the “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017. Many consumers who received the calls submitted complaints to FCC and other law enforcement regarding unwanted and harassing robocalls.

FCC traced the unlawful spoofed robocalls to Scott Rhodes, a resident of Idaho and Montana, and in January 2021, FCC imposed a $9,918,000 forfeiture penalty against Rhodes. In September 2021, 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, after concluding based on a de novo review of the evidence that Rhodes committed the violations found by FCC.

“The department is committed to protecting consumers from deceptive robocalls,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We are very pleased by the court’s judgment, and we will continue working with the FCC and other agency partners to vigorously enforce the telemarketing laws that prohibit these practices.”

“Virtually every Montanan has been the subject of unwanted and harassing robocalls, and the person responsible for such calls usually escapes accountability,” said U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich for the District of Montana. “But not this time. 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. I applaud the court’s injunction and nearly $10 million forfeiture penalty that hold Rhodes accountable. These results send the clear message that the Justice Department is determined to protect consumers.”

“When persistent and malicious robocallers break the law, it takes strong partnerships like this one to bring them to justice,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel of the FCC. “I thank the Justice Department team, in conjunction with FCC lawyers, for vigorously pursuing this penalty. I especially want to thank FCC investigators for tracking down this robocaller and building such a strong case. Our agency will continue to relentlessly pursue these unwanted robocalls and build on our multi-faceted collaborative approach with law enforcement agencies at home, as well as the growing partnerships we’re fostering with our counterparts abroad, so that we can quickly and effectively neutralize bad actors.”

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 for the District of Montana.

Updated March 22, 2024

Consumer Protection
Press Release Number: 24-335