The Federal Trade Commission is mailing more than $4 million to consumers identified as victims of an illegal credit card billing scam operated by J.K. Publications, raising the total to more than $16 million since an initial mailing last June.

An estimated 145,000 redress checks began going out Friday, bringing the total number to nearly 550,000 since June.

The defendants placed charges on consumers' credit and debit cards for Internet entertainment services they had not ordered and did not want. The records obtained during litigation contained only credit and debit card numbers. Under instructions from the court, credit reporting agencies and banks provided the FTC with the names and addresses associated with the card numbers as of the date of the charges.

Most of the illegal billing dates back to 1998. The FTC filed a lawsuit in 1999.

Substantial time passed between a court judgment and the issuance of these checks because the defendants moved millions of dollars of their ill-gotten funds offshore, and it took "time and effort to locate and repatriate the fraudulently obtained money," according to the FTC.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.