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8/3/2007
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Notorious Spammer And 'Drug Kingpin' Sentenced To 30 Years

A man who made about $24 million illegally selling pharmaceuticals online and then fled the country to avoid prosecution faces 30 years in prison.

A notorious spammer who made millions of dollars illegally selling medications online was hit with a 30-year prison sentence this week.

Christopher William Smith, 27, who ran Xpress Pharmacy, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, according to a court clerk in an interview. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Alexander told InformationWeek that prosecutors asked for a higher sentence because Smith made a death threat against a witness' children.

Smith was convicted last November on nine charges of conspiracy, illegal distribution of drugs, money laundering, and operating a "continuing criminal enterprise."

Going by the nickname "Rizler," Smith made about $24 million selling medications to customers without proper prescriptions and selling drugs without a license. During his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis called Smith a "drug kingpin," according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Court records show that in 2005, Smith fled the country and hid out in the Dominican Republic. He went on the lam just days after federal authorities executed a search warrant on his home, seizing his passport and $4.2 million in assets, including a $1.1 million house and luxury vehicles worth $1.8 million. The FBI also closed down his online operation, which employed 85 people. Soon after the search, Smith was forced to appear in federal court to face charges. He fled the country, using a false passport, a few days later.

He was eventually arrested, when he flew back into the country and touched down in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport.

"If anyone is in any doubt about the riches that criminal spammers can make for themselves, then they should read the story of Christopher 'Rizler' Smith," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, in a written statement. "Pharmacy spammers are amongst the lowest of the low when it comes to Internet crime -- not only deluging people with millions of unwanted e-mails, but also potentially putting lives at risk through dangerous medications. The authorities should be applauded for finally bringing this spam king to justice."

The Star Tribune also reported that Smith discussed with a cohort ways to shut up a witness by threatening her children's lives. "It's a kill-or-be-killed world," Smith reportedly said. The newspaper also reported that Smith told the judge that he was not serious in the phone call and blamed his comments on a bipolar disorder.

This past May, the feds arrested the man dubbed the "spam king." Robert Alan Soloway, 27, the owner of Newport Internet Marketing Corp. of Seattle, is looking at five counts of identity theft, mail fraud, wire fraud, fraud in connection with e-mail, and money laundering. If convicted on all the charges, he could face up to 75 years in prison.

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