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Monday, August 22, 2005

Portrait of a Spammer as a Young Man

Spammer1The AP has a very interesting story of the high-rolling lifestyle of a spammer:

Christopher Smith's neighbors didn't know exactly what he did for a living. But they knew well that he liked to collect expensive cars and set off fireworks at all hours.

At an age when most of his peers could barely afford a new car, Smith was amassing a collection that would include BMWs, Hummers, a Ferrari, a Jaguar and a Lamborghini. And when other 20-somethings were trying to save for down payments on modest starter homes, Smith paid $1.1 million for a house in a more affluent suburb.

Smith got all that through his successes in massive unsolicited e-mail marketing, authorities say. The Spamhaus Project, an anti-spam group, considered him one of the world's worst offenders.

He was just 25 when the feds in May shut down his flagship company, Xpress Pharmacy Direct, and seized $1.8 million in luxury cars, two homes and $1.3 million in cash held by Smith and associates.

But even then, prosecutors say, he refused to give up.

They say he tried to relaunch his online pharmacy from an offshore haven — the Dominican Republic — intending to build his business back up to $4.1 million in sales by its second month, right where it was before. . . .

Christopher Smith was arrested when he flew back to Minneapolis this summer.  Here's more about Smith’s life as a spammer:

The high school dropout, operating under the nickname Rizler, got his start in the late 1990s, selling police radar and laser jammers. Along the way he added cable TV descramblers and other products.

After Time Warner Cable got an injunction in 2002 putting Smith out of the descrambler business, he diversified and generated more than $18 million in sales from drugs online, including the often-abused narcotic painkiller Vicodin, without obtaining proper prescriptions, federal prosecutors say. . . .

Neighbors didn't know exactly what Smith did for a living. Parson said he told one person he had a lawn service, another that he was "into computers" and yet another that he was "into pharmaceuticals."

"There were these Hummers outside, the limos outside," she said. "It was like, 'Where do these people get their money from?'"

There’s a lot more to the tale in the article. If it weren’t for the bad ending, the spamming lifestyle was starting to sound quite fun. Sadly, there appears to be much more money in creating spam than blog posts. Sometimes, the world works in perverse ways.

Posted by Daniel Solove on August 22, 2005 at 12:02 AM in Daniel Solove, Information and Technology | Permalink


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The Russians have an entirely more peremptory method of dealing with spam kings, you know.

Posted by: Simon | Aug 23, 2005 10:14:47 AM

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