'Spam king' given 30-year jail sentence

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'Spam king' given 30-year jail sentence

Christopher Smith, the notorious "pharmacy spam king," has received a 30-year-jail sentence for running an illegal internet store that sold millions of dollars in prescription drugs.

Prosecutors had argued for such a stiff sentence after Smith, also known as "Rizer," made a death threat against a witness's children.

When federal authorities raided Smith's home and his company Xpress Pharmacy in May 2005, they seized his passport and US$4.2 million in assets, including the US$1.1 million house and vehicles worth US$1.8 million. Simultaneously, the FBI closed down Smith's 85-employee company.

Investigators said that Smith had been selling medicines without proper prescriptions and without a license. Smith initially appeared in a federal court after the raid, but fled to the Dominican Republic four days later using a false passport. He was eventually arrested on 30 June, 2005, at Minneapolis St. Paul International airport after a flight from the Caribbean.

Smith is no stranger to the inside of a courtroom: In January, 2006, US District Judge Claude Hilton in Alexandria, Va., ordered Smith to pay US$5.3 million, or $25,000 for every day he sent spam emails, plus $287,059 for America Online's legal fees after AOL twice sured him.

AOL first sued Christopher Smith in 2003 in Virginia, then again in 2005 to take advantage of the federal Can-Spam Act of 2003. Smith sent 1.13 billion spam messages to AOL members over a six-month period at the start of 2003, AOL said.

"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, a senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Pharmacy spammers are amongst the lowest of the low when it comes to internet crime, not only deluging people with millions of unwanted emails but also potentially putting lives at risk through dangerous medications. The authorities should be applauded for finally bringing this spam 'king' to justice."

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