Jailed spam king caught conspiring to kill witnessMarch 23, 2006
Spam king and online drugstore operator Christopher William Smith, aka Rizler, 26, who is awaiting trial at the Sherburne County Jail, Elk River, Minn., used his phone privileges to arrange a hit on a witness and the witness's family.
According to the indictment, Smith called an acquaintance from jail March 4 and allegedly stated he intended to threaten and intimidate a witness he expected would testify against him in his upcoming trial on drug and other charges. The indictment alleges Smith also said he intended to have the witness or the witness's family killed.
It was one of several calls made by Smith to numbers not linked with his defense attorney that officials at the Elk River facility monitored and recorded.
The pair discussed hiring a private detective to photograph the witness' family and ways they could find and track witnesses, according to the complaint filed.
Prosecutors did not identify the witness or Smith's friend, whom they called an unindicted co-conspirator.
Smith was charged with one count of conspiracy to tamper with a witness and one count of endeavoring to obstruct justice, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday as Smith made his first court appearance on the new charges, the U.S. attorney's office said in a news release.
Smith's lawyer, Joe Friedberg, declined comment on the new charges, reports the Associated Press.
The maximum penalties on the new charges are life in prison for conspiracy to tamper with a witness, and 20 years for endeavoring to obstruct justice.
"The United States Attorney's Office takes matters of witness intimidation very seriously," said U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose in a news release. "Any person who threatens a government official will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
A year ago, Smith was enjoying his fortune, living in a $1 million house in Prior Lake and driving luxury cars. His empire crashed in May when federal prosecutors accused Smith of illegally dispensing prescription drugs.
Online Payment Solutions in Burnsville, Minn., which is owned by Smith, illegally sold more than $20 million worth of prescription drugs by phone and the Internet before federal authorities shut it down in May. Online Payment Solutions is a company that runs several Web sites, including Xpress Pharmacy Direct (Xpress-RX.com).
Although Smith allegedly built his pharmacy business from spam-related profits, it doesn't appear that Smith actually sent spam to advertise the pharmacy sites. Witnesses told investigators that he bought ads in magazines and had sales reps field calls at the Burnsville, MN offices of Online Payment Solutions.
After complaints from customers and former employees, the FBI, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating Smith for alleged money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud.
They concluded that Smith was selling medicines to customers without proper prescriptions, and paying a New Jersey doctor to write at least 20,000 prescriptions for patients he had not seen.
In August, Smith and several business associates were indicted on charges of continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances, wire fraud, misbranding drugs and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Sherburne County Jail
Smith also is accused of charging customers' credit cards multiple times without delivering the drug and shipping a drug that was not the medicine purchased.
Smith had previously pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, wire fraud, selling misbranded drugs and money laundering.
Smith posted bail but was sent back to jail in September for violating the terms of his release.
Smith, a high school dropout, was an internationally known e-mail spammer when he started the drug business. He was being pursued as Rizler, one of the country's top e-mail spammers who filled the inboxes of billions of e-mail accounts with offers for sexually explicit websites, penis enlargement drugs, 'generic Viagra' and online college degrees. In 2002, Time Warner Cable obtained an injunction barring Smith from selling cable television descrambler devices through e-mails, part of a spamming operation that helped earn him a reputation within anti-spamming circles.|
Christopher William Smith, also known as Chris Johnson, Bruce Jonson, Robert Jonson, Dieter W. Doneit-Schmitz, and Eric Smith, had amassed so much wealth from his pharmacy business that he could afford houses in Prior Lake and Burnsville and keep a fleet of luxury automobiles (2006 Mercedes Benz S65, 2004 Lamborghini Murciélago, 2005 Mercedes Benz C55A, 2001 Ferrari, 2001 BMW M5 Sedan, 2004 Mercedes Maybach, 2005 Jeep Wrangler, 2004 Cadillac DeVille Limousine, 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe, 2001 Hummer H1, etc.) according to court documents.
The Murcielago is perhaps one of the most sought-after exotics in the world. Valued at over $230,000, it can attain a top speed of 205 MPH and can accelerate from 0-60 in less than 3.5 seconds
January 26, 2006 - Notorious spammer Christopher 'Rizler' Smith smacked down, again
January 26, 2006 - Rizler's lawyer charged in Internet pharmacy scheme
August 26, 2005 - Rizler pleads not guilty
July 08, 2005 - Spam king Christopher 'Rizler' Smith to be released on $50,000 bail
July 06, 2005 - Spam king defies judge's orders, got caught and goes to jail
May 20, 2005 - Another major spammer smackdown