The court also permanently banned Howard Carmack from spamming and from a host of other activities related to spamming, such as distributing mass e-mail software and selling e-mail addresses, according to Pete Wellborn, legal counsel for EarthLink.
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EarthLink said that a ring led by Carmack obtained internet accounts using stolen credit cards, identity theft and bank fraud, then used those accounts to send out reams of spam.
Carmack used the accounts of family members and third parties to mask his activities, sending out spam e-mail for "work at home" and "get rich quick" schemes and cable television descramblers.
"This was the worst of the worst of the worst of what you see in spam," Wellborn said.
EarthLink began investigating the spam ring in March 2002 following what it described as a "spike" in spam e-mail from the Buffalo area of New York.
By October, an EarthLink team led by Mary Youngblood, EarthLink's network abuse team manager, identified and contacted a number of individuals involved in the ring who fingered Carmack as the ringleader.
EarthLink pursued Carmack and shut down several accounts he used. However, Carmack's spamming activities continued to be "a big enough nuisance" that EarthLink turned to the courts.
Wellborn said the ruling was a "best case scenario" for EarthLink and internet users weary of spam e-mail messages.
"The court's permanent injunction protects internet users everywhere and the $16m damages award sends a message to everyone out there that if you keep spamming there will be a financial death penalty," he said.
In April, America Online filed five separate lawsuits against alleged spammers as part of its antispam campaign.
Those lawsuits, filed in AOL's home state of Virginia, charge more than a dozen companies and individuals with sending an estimated one billion spam messages to AOL members.