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Man accused of making thousands of racist robocalls faces $13 million fine

Over 6,000 robocalls were made in total

robocall Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The FCC has proposed an almost $13 million fine for a man it says was behind a series of racist and anti-semitic robocalling campaigns consisting of over 6,000 calls being placed across six states. The man is accused of using anti-semitic and racist tropes to attack political candidates, threaten a newspaper, and stoke racial hatred after the murder of a college student by an undocumented immigrant.

There were six campaigns in total, the FCC alleges, which ranged from attacking political candidates in California, Florida, and Georgia (1,496, 766, and 583 calls respectively), threatening a newspaper in Idaho (750 calls), and spreading conspiracy theories about a trial in Virginia (2,023 calls). In the latter case, the FCC says the calls seemed designed to influence the trial’s jury.

In Iowa, a campaign placed 827 calls in which a woman’s voice designed to imitate a murdered student encouraged the calls’ recipients to “kill them all,” referring to undocumented immigrants according to FCC chairman Ajit Pai. An undocumented immigrant had been charged with the student’s murder the previous month. One such call was received by the victim’s father.

The campaigns are allegedly the work of Scott D. Rhodes, according to The New York Times. Rhodes is accused of spoofing caller IDs with the intent to cause harm. He’s accused of violating the Truth in Caller ID Act by manipulating call ID information to make it appear as though the calls were coming from local numbers nearby to their recipients. Rhodes will have 30 days to respond to the findings, after which the FCC will vote on whether to impose the $12,910,000 fine.

Rhodes runs the website Road to Power, and is accused by anti-hate groups of being a white supremacist. Road to Power has previously taken credit for racist robocalls made to Columbia University employees after a freshman student was killed in a mugging. However, these calls are not part of the FCC’s current action.

The case illustrates how robocalls are not just an annoying daily occurrence for anyone with a phone number, but that they can be actively used to harass, threaten, and spread hatred on a massive scale. They cannot be stamped out soon enough.