Mr. Spam Man

Microsoft wants to shut him down. New York's attorney general wants to see him in court. But Scott Richter keeps thinking big.

"We were brought into this because of our name," he says. "We're positive that we're not going to pay a penny and we're going to be out of it fast. Our intention is to countersue for damage and to hold Eliot Spitzer personally liable for the remarks he's made. The guy was on National Public Radio saying we're already out of business."

Richter says that Spitzer has yet to produce one piece of fraudulent mail sent out by OptInRealBig. Technically, he hasn't even produced an aggrieved mail recipient -- a live one, anyway. Although the lawsuit estimates that 5 percent of the recipients of the Synergy6 campaign were New York residents, the $20 million figure sought in the suit is based on the spam-trap examples of fraud. "Those aren't New York residents," Richter notes. "They're going to have to produce 8,000 New Yorkers."

According to Richter, New York Assistant Attorney General Stephen Kline offered to let his company "opt out" of the lawsuit and pay a settlement of $100,000; he declined. (Kline didn't respond to a request for comment.) Spitzer may be emerging as the scourge of CEOs, a modern-day Dewey, but Richter isn't easily intimidated. Consider his response to a recent assault on OptInRealBig from its own former employees.

Scott Richter
John Johnston
Scott Richter
Talking trash: Microsoft attorney Brad Smith (left) 
watches as New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer 
vows to delete Scott Richter's profits.
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Talking trash: Microsoft attorney Brad Smith (left) watches as New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer vows to delete Scott Richter's profits.

Last fall, as Spitzer was preparing to file his lawsuit, half a dozen men abruptly left Richter's operation. One of them was Jeff Perreault, a 10 percent owner of the company who was moving into a consulting relationship. Others included key information-technology people and sales reps. Shortly after their departure, Richter says, he discovered that the ex-employees had destroyed hard drives and made copies of confidential data and client files for their own use. One IT whiz, he alleges, even tapped into his private e-mail correspondence with legal counsel and arranged for callers to a company "tech support" number to be forwarded to an adult chat line.

OptInRealBig's lawyers went to court, claiming that the defectors were setting up a rival company -- and using stolen property to do it. Last month, Denver District Judge Herbert Stern ordered the property at issue to be returned and cautioned the defendants against disparaging Richter's company.

Perreault didn't respond to Westword's requests for comment. Richter says he expects a settlement in the case to be reached soon.

In Richter's world, the only way to avoid getting crushed is to keep getting bigger. He points out that AOL, Microsoft and other big service providers blitz their own users with "special offers" all the time, but nobody's calling that spam. A case could be made, he argues, that Microsoft is going after him because it wants to eliminate the competition. The best way to protect himself, he figures, is to build his own free e-mail service into something very big.

"My goal is to have 40 million free e-mail accounts given out by the end of the year," he says. "I'm building my own user base. What's Hotmail going to say when I won't take mail from them?"


The sign on the window next to the entrance of OptInRealBig's offices in Westminster leaves no room for misunderstanding. Or irony.


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