Suspected spam king Rizler arrested at airport will appear in court today, Sophos reports

July 06, 2005 Sophos Press Release

Suspected spam king Christopher Smith (also known as "Rizler") is expected to appear in court today after his arrest at Minneapolis St Paul International airport.

Smith was arrested shortly after midnight after stepping off a flight on Thursday 30 June from the Dominican Republic. Smith had been operating there since a US federal judge in May shut down his lucrative businesses, Burnsville Internet and Xpress Pharmacy Direct, and ordered him to stop selling drugs.

Through his companies, Smith is alleged to have sent more than one billion spam emails either to AOL email addresses or through AOL email accounts. The FBI claims that Smith has already made about $18 million this year.

"There are huge profits to be made from spam, and organised criminals are prepared to break many laws in their greed for money. Rizler has been one of the most notorious spammers, and anyone who has been deluged with spam offering medication and drugs will welcome the US authorities making progress in this case," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Of course, spam wouldn't be profitable if no-one bought the goods sold via spam. Everyone should protect their email accounts from spam and viruses, and think twice before ever purchasing goods advertised via unsolicited email."

According to the FBI, 25-year-old Smith had flown to the Dominican Republic under a false passport, used a cash card to obtain money from a bank account after it had been seized by a court order, and had his wife Anita, his Minnesota girlfriend and others bring him thousands of dollars in cash.

On May 10, federal authorities raided Xpress Pharmacy and Smith's home, seizing his passport and $4.2 million in assets, including a $1.1 million house and luxury vehicles worth $1.8 million. At the same time the FBI closed down his 85-employee company. Investigators concluded that Smith had been selling medicines to customers without proper prescriptions and selling drugs without a license. Smith appeared in a federal court after the raid, but four days later fled to the Dominican Republic.

The US Attorney's office claims that Smith had broken court orders, and is recommending that he be held in criminal contempt and jailed for six months.

Court documents allege that by 21 June, Smith had used aliases to set up new websites and was selling drugs without prescriptions online and through a new call center he had set up in the Dominican Republic.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend businesses from the threats of both spam and viruses.