ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A man who sent billions of junk e-mails hawking online college degrees, sexually explicit Web sites and "generic Viagra" must pay more than $5 million in penalties to America Online, a federal judge ruled.
Christopher William Smith, of Prior Lake, Minn., was considered one of the world's worst spammers, operating under the name Rizler. He is now in jail in Minnesota awaiting trial on criminal charges that he violated federal drug laws while operating an online pharmacy.
On Tuesday U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton issued a summary judgment against Smith ordering him to pay $5.3 million in damages and $287,000 in legal fees to AOL, which filed a civil suit against Smith under the Can-Spam act.
AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said Smith "was the poster child for the Can-Spam Act," which Congress enacted in 2004 to crack down on unsolicited junk e-mail.
"This is someone we've been pursuing for three years," Graham said. "It's one of the largest judgments we've received."
Hilton issued a summary judgment in favor of Dulles-based AOL after Smith "refused to participate in this case, willfully disregarding ... discovery obligations and failing to comply with multiple court orders," according to the judge's order.
Court records show that Smith's lawyers withdrew from the case several months after it was filed.
In addition to e-mails promoting generic Viagra and pornographic Web sites, Smith also advertised cable TV descramblers and penis enhancement pills.
In an initial response to AOL's lawsuit, Smith's lawyers denied wrongdoing and questioned the constitutionality of the Can-Spam law.
Graham said that AOL has won tens of millions of dollars in judgments against more than 30 spammers under the federal law and a similar Virginia law.
America Online, Inc. is a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.
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