PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A career con artist who helped with a criminal investigation that led to Google Inc. forfeiting $500 million was sentenced Friday to nearly six years in prison for his role in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme targeting 83 customers and a credit-card processing company.
David Whitaker's cooperation with the Google investigation was called extraordinary several times during his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Providence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Reich said that, because of the probe, millions of Americans have been protected from rogue online Canadian pharmacies advertising prescription drugs through Google's AdWords program.
Google forfeited the $500 million to avoid criminal prosecution for accusations it improperly profited from ads placed by the pharmacies.
Google did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.
Whitaker, a 36-year-old Virginia resident who has been imprisoned since 2008, said before sentencing that the probe changed his life.
He said he learned from investigators honesty, integrity and how to be a better person. He said he also shed his misconception that he was a victim.
"I hurt a lot of people, and I've made a mess of my life," said Whitaker, dressed in a beige prison clothes. He added, "My apology would be to change."
Prosecutors also were complimentary of Whitaker.
"But for his cooperation, this would not have taken off," Reich said.
Judge William E. Smith also ordered Whitaker to pay more than $10 million in restitution, including more than $2.2 million that he and a co-defendant must pay to a credit-card processing company.
Whitaker faced up to 65 years in prison for his crimes, but Smith agreed to recommendations by his lawyer and Reich to make him eligible for a less severe sentence. Whitaker will be credited for the nearly four years spent in prison but still faces two years and two months of imprisonment.
Authorities arrested Whitaker in California after he was expelled from Mexico in 2008.
Authorities allege his Rhode Island electronics-equipment provider, Mixitforme Inc., bilked $7 million to $20 million from customers and a credit card processor.
After his arrest, Whitaker disclosed to investigators that he had been selling prescription drugs online in Mexico with the help of Google's AdWords program, Reich said.
Whitaker described how he developed relationships with Google employees who allowed him to place ads for drugs obtained from overseas without a prescription, Reich said.
Whitaker helped investigators construct phony websites that purported to sell the drugs, officials said.
by Laura Crimaldi Associated Press Dec. 3, 2011 12:00 AM
Google-tied con artist gets 6 years
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