When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) typically fines robocallers, they’re usually operations that involve shady companies. Not so with the agency’s latest proposed action, which targets a single individual. On Thursday, the FCC said it wants to fine one man $12,910,000 for carrying out massive robocalling campaigns in six states. In all, the person made more than 6,000 calls in California, Flordia, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa and Virginia using an online tool that allowed them to mask their calls as coming from a local number.
The FCC says the man wanted to gain “notoriety” and “publicity” for their website and personal brand. To that end, all their calls had some political angle. In one campaign, for instance, the person made 827 calls to people in the town of Brooklyn, Iowa, “following the murder of a local college student and the arrest of an illegal alien from Mexico for the crime.” While the FCC doesn’t explicitly mention the name of the victim, it’s very likely the calls were related to the death of Mollie Tibbetts. The agency says the robocaller’s racist messages talked about a “brown horde” that the murder victim would have wanted the town to “kill them all.” The robocaller even went so far as to phone the parents of the victim.
Despite new laws like the TRACED Act, it’s unclear if the FCC will be able to get any money from the person. The agency doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to successfully collecting the fines it imposes on robocallers. According to a 2019 Wall Street Journal report, since 2015 the federal agency had ordered violators of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to pay $208.4 million but had at that point only collected $6,790.