The Federal Communications Commission has assessed a $10 million fine against an individual accused of illegally using Caller ID in violation of the Truth in Caller ID Act to spoof thousands of robocalls that spewed racist and xenophobic messages.
Scott Rhodes was accused of making 4,959 robocalls during a seven-month span in 2018. His calls targeted voters in specific districts during political campaigns or individuals in areas that had experienced major news events. In one example, he was accused of harassing his local newspaper in retaliation for revealing that Rhodes was making controversial robocalls. He manipulated Caller ID to make it look like the calls were coming from local numbers, attempting to increase the chances that individuals would pick up the phone.
The FCC lowered the original forfeiture order, which it issued last year, from $13 million because one of the numbers used by the individual to make the robocalls was his number to use.
“The law is clear: spoofed caller ID robocalls used with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or cheat recipients is unlawful. And the American people are sick and tired of it. In this instance, not only were the calls unlawful, but the caller took them to new levels of egregiousness,” said Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, in a statement. “With today’s fine, we once again make clear our commitment to aggressively go after those who are unlawfully bombarding the American people with spoofed robocalls.”
Rhodes attempted to argue that he did not make the calls, that the calls were protected by the First Amendment, and that there was no intent to cause harm, among other defenses.
For those who are curious how the FCC arrived at its fine amount – $9,918,000, it fined Rhodes $1,000 for each of the 4,959 illegal calls that were made and then doubled the amount to “reflect the egregiousness” of his conduct.