The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered an Idaho man to pay a fine of nearly $10 million for organizing the placement of thousands of allegedly racist and anti-Semitic robocalls.
In a Forfeiture Order issued in mid-January, the FCC recaps the history of the violation that led to the massive fine. The individual, Scott Rhodes, apparently made more than 6000 unlawful spoofed robocalls to residents in at least six states between May and December 2018. The calls reportedly targeted voters in districts during political campaigns, or residents living in communities that had recently experienced events “related to or involving white nationalism, immigration, or other public controversies.”
The calls directed recipients to a website called “theroadtopower,” which contained several videos featuring Rhodes providing commentary similar to that contained in robocalls.
Following complaints from consumers in the targeted areas, the FCC Enforcement Bureau traced the robocalls to a specific dialing platform that identified Rhodes as the originator of the calls. Rhodes reportedly altered his caller ID information so as to appear to be a local resident of the targeted areas, which is illegal under the Truth in Caller ID Act.
The FCC originally proposed a forfeiture of nearly $13 million in a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture issued in January 2020. In his response, Rhodes vehemently denied all the FCC’s allegations, and further claimed that the agency’s actions represented a “politically motived gross overreach of FCC authority.”
In its Forfeiture Order, the FCC found Rhodes’ arguments in his defense “unpersuasive.” However, the agency did reduce the originally proposed forfeiture amount from $12.9 million to just over $9.8 million to account for calls for which Rhodes was ultimately found not responsible.