ELYRIA — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has sued a Wellington man for allegedly sending hundreds of thousands of unsolicited texts to people, including some on the national Do Not Call Registry, without their permission.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, accuses Darren Sizemore of violating the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act and Consumer Sales Protection Act by sending the messages, which informed the recipients that they had won items including iPhones and iPads.
One message, for instance read: “Last month you entered to win an iPad3, you’ve won! To claim you iPad3 simply visit (the website) now. Claim within the next hour or forfeit.”
According to a news release from DeWine’s office, in order to receive the prizes, those following the links to the websites were asked to provide personal information or sign up for trial offers that had upfront payments. They were also sometimes asked to enroll in ongoing membership programs.
The release said that state law requires that those requirements should have been disclosed in the initial text message, something that Sizemore allegedly didn’t do.
Kate Hanson, a DeWine spokeswoman, said that the messages, which were sent through an automatic dialing system, were designed to get people to visit certain websites.
“The defendant received compensation from third parties for driving web traffic,” Hanson said.
She said that Hanson sent the messages on behalf of Verma Holdings and ECommerce Merchants, which did business as Superior Affiliate Management, both of which were sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in March.
ECommerce Merchants reached a settlement with the FTC last week in which they were required to stop sending deceptive messages either themselves or through affiliates such as Sizemore, according to an FTC news release. Those who ran the company also were ordered to pay $356,950, which was their profit, but that payment was delayed because they didn’t have the money to satisfy the judgment.
Sizemore operated between April and October 2012, but there is no evidence he continues to do so, Hanson said.
The lawsuit against Sizemore asks a county judge to issue an injunction against Sizemore to prohibit further spamming as well as damages for the victims and fines.
“Current technology makes it easy for businesses or individuals to bombard consumers with unsolicited text messages,” DeWine said in the release. “But state and federal law restrict these practices, and it’s unacceptable for individuals to break the law for their own personal gain.”
A phone number listed for Sizemore was disconnected when it was called Tuesday.