New charges against Rizler

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Christopher William Smith, the notorious spam lord known as Rizler, faced new charges yesterday for allegedly conspiring to kill a witness connected to his prescription drug spam trial.

Smith was initially indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2005 for illegally selling prescription drugs through spam emails, websites and telemarketing call centers. Smith and his co-defendants allegedly made more than $20 million selling painkillers through these channels.

In separate civil proceedings just this January, the Minnesota man was ordered to pay America Online $5.3 million in damages related to the billions of spam messages sent by him to its customers.

According to yesterday's indictment, Smith got into trouble again when he called an associate earlier this month from the Sherburne County Jail in Elk River. Jail officials said that they monitored and recorded a conversation in which he supposedly discussed intent to threaten or kill a specific witness in the other case against him.

If convicted for this new crime, Smith faces a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to tamper with a witness, plus a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for endeavoring to obstruct justice.

"The United States Attorney's Office takes matters of witness intimidation very seriously," U.S. Attorney Rachel K. Paulose commented. "Any person who threatens a government witness will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

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