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Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Thursday, September 21, 2000

CORNYN LAUNCHES NEW TEXAS INTERNET BUREAU

Attorney General Also Announces Lawsuits Against Pyramid Scheme Web Sites

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today announced the formation of the Texas Internet Bureau, a new division within the Attorney General's office to fight fraud and crime on the Internet.

The Texas Internet Bureau will coordinate and direct the efforts and expertise of attorneys and investigators in the Attorney General's office to address consumer fraud, online child pornography, privacy concerns, hacking and other tech crimes. The Internet Bureau, funded through a $800,000 grant from the Office of Gov. George W. Bush, will have a staff of 10 attorneys, investigators and technological and administrative support.

The bureau will also serve as a resource for local law enforcement in Internet-related investigations and will work with local district attorneys and with United States Attorneys in Texas, Cornyn said. The Internet Bureau's office is a brand new state-of-the-art online investigative lab at the Attorney General's office with technical equipment to assist in this effort. The Internet Bureau will be linked with the North Texas Regional Computer Forensics Lab in Dallas, enabling law enforcement agencies to share tips and investigative techniques. Also, the bureau has been invited to join the Dallas-based Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

"As more and more Texans use the Internet in business, at home and at school, there are also more and more criminals who are using cyberspace to commit fraud and other crimes. The Texas Internet Bureau will work closely with law enforcement agencies to go after these criminals and to help ensure that the Internet is a safe place to surf and shop," Cornyn stated.

Cornyn announced that the new Internet Bureau will be headed by Reid Wittliff, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Dallas specializing in computer and telecommunications crime. Wittliff has prosecuted numerous hacking cases, software piracy cases and computer software fraud cases. Wittliff will coordinate federal and state cooperation in cybercrime and cyberfraud cases and spearhead the enforcement efforts of the Internet Bureau.

In conjunction with the launch of the Texas Internet Bureau, Cornyn also announced lawsuits filed in Travis and Bexar Counties against illegal pyramid promotional web sites, doubleeaglemarketing.com and bigsmart.com for violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Double Eagle Marketing is based in the Killeen area and offers a home-based business program which represents that it sells Internet marketing strategies, but the program is actually an illegal pyramid scheme in which participants are paid for bringing others into the scheme and not for the sale of products.

Bigsmart is an Arizona-based company that has operated, advertised, and sold a pyramid promotional scheme in which it purports to sell "internet malls." Consumers paid $300 to $900 to buy into these "malls" which are, in fact, simply web sites with links to other merchants. Bigsmart's operations and commission systems are based primarily on the introduction of others to purchase more "malls." Both lawsuits seek a temporary injunction to prohibit this illegal pyramid scheme as well as restitution for consumers, penalties and attorneys' fees.

In addition to the these two new cases, the Attorney General's Office recently took action against:

  • Child pornography. The AG's office has directly participated in prosecuting these types of cases in Montague, Washington, Jefferson and Comal counties and has assisted local governments in investigations and evidence-gathering in almost 100 other cases. With cooperation between the Attorney General's office and the Williamson County Sheriff's Department, a man was indicted last week on multiple counts of possession of child pornography.
  • Toysmart.com. This Internet merchant attempted to sell personal information about its customers after assuring them this would not be done.
  • Medprescribe.com and Xpresstoday.com. These two online pharmacies violated the Deceptive Trade Practices Act by selling prescription drugs to customers without in-depth consultations with a physician.
  • Renewtrient: A product called Renewtrient was offered for sale in Texas via the Internet. Renewtrient contains a chemical which, when processed in the body, is converted to gamma hyrdrobutryrate or GHB, one of the so called "date rape" drugs which is classified as a dangerous drug in the United States.

"In taking the bad actors offline, we build consumers' trust in the Internet marketplace and make the economy stronger," said Attorney General Cornyn.

The Internet Bureau will also work to educate Texans on using the Internet wisely and safely to surf and shop and what to do if they come across bad actors online. The Attorney General has added a new Internet Bureau page on the web site (www.oag.state.tx.us) with tips for online consumers. Texans with questions or concerns about companies or suspicious emails are encouraged to call the Attorney General's office at 1-800-252-8011 or file a report online.

Fact Sheet on Texas Internet Bureau

Listen to Internet Bureau press conference in Real Audio

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050
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