Nearly $10 million penalty for man who made antisemitic, racist robocalls

Robocalls are often associated with political and telemarketing phone campaigns, though technological advancements have led to an expansion in the use and application of robocalling.

A hacker is being depicted in this illustrative photo  (photo credit: Courtesy)
A hacker is being depicted in this illustrative photo
(photo credit: Courtesy)

The US Department of Justice filed a complaint against a Montana man last Thursday to recover $9.9 million in penalties imposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for nearly 5,000 unlawful and malicious “robocalls,” some of which contained discriminatory remarks against Jews and other minorities.

“Robocalls” are phone calls that deliver prerecorded messages. Robocalls are often associated with political and telemarketing phone campaigns, though technological advancements have led to an expansion in the use and application of robocalling. The United States Congress passed legislation expanding the regulation of robocalls in 2019.

A complaint filed in a US District Court alleged that Montana resident Scott Rhodes, 52, made 4,959 illegal robocalls with falsified caller ID information. Many of his calls included messages the Department of Justice called “highly inflammatory” in a statement, such as his spoofed calls to locals of an Iowa town in the aftermath of a community murder where he told victims that the woman had been murdered by a “biological hybrid of white and savage Aztec ancestors.”

Rhodes also made 2,000 calls targeting residents of Charlottesville, North Carolina, during the investigation of the Charlottesville car attack at 2017’s “Unite the Right” rally which left Heather Heyer dead and dozens injured. The calls generally espoused hateful discrimination, such as a mention of Charlottesville’s “Jew Mayor” and “his pet Negro Police Chief.” Some of Rhodes’ messages also stated, “We’re no longer going to tolerate a Jewish lying press and Jew corruption of an American legal system.”

Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, US, July 8, 2017 (credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, US, July 8, 2017 (credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)

The US Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Assistant US Attorney Shannon Clarke for the District of Montana.

“Combatting illegal robocalls is a top consumer protection priority,” said Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel of the FCC. “In this case, the FCC’s investigation found an ugly pattern of spoofing used to bombard and target communities with malicious robocalls. Working with the Department of Justice, the FCC will stand by this fine and demand payment."