10/05/2012 02:54 EDT | Updated 12/05/2012 05:12 EST

Online pharmacy pioneer pleads guilty to fraud

An internet pharmacist from Manitoba has pleaded guilty in Florida for his role in a scheme to defraud American customers buying medications online.

Andrew Strempler has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with his role as owner and president of Mediplan Health Consulting Inc., a Canadian company, that also operated under the name

RxNorth was an Internet, mail and telephone order pharmacy, through which Strempler and others marketed and sold prescription drugs to residents of the United States.

He faces up to five years in prison, a forfeiture of $300,000, a fine, and restitution.

Strempler, one of the first entrepreneurs in the cross-border online pharmacy industry, was arrested in Florida in June on two counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

A judge denied him bail at the time, saying Strempler was too much of a flight risk. The judge noted Strempler sold his home in Florida a few years ago and had not returned to the U.S. since learning he was under investigation.

The charges relate to a 2005 seizure of drugs shipped by Mediplan. The FDA said many of the drugs promoted online as Canadian actually came from other countries.

An FDA investigation was launched in 2006 after the agency advised consumers against purchasing several prescription drugs from Mediplan.