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A pharmacist counts pills in a pharmacy in this January 2008 file photo.MARK BLINCH/Reuters

A pioneer of the Canadian Internet pharmacy industry has been sentenced to four years in prison by a Miami court.

The U.S. Justice Department says Andrew Strempler was sentenced "for his role in a scheme to defraud consumers purchasing pharmaceuticals online."

The department also says Mr. Strempler was ordered to pay a forfeiture of $300,000 and a fine of $25,000 and that a restitution hearing has been set for Feb. 26.

Prosecutors had originally sought up to 20 years in prison and the forfeiture of $95-million in alleged proceeds from his business.

Mr. Strempler pleaded guilty in October 2012 of conspiracy to commit mail fraud as owner of, based in Minnedosa, Man. was an Internet, mail and telephone order pharmacy, through which prescription drugs were sold to American consumers between 2005 and mid-2006.

"Internet websites that illegally sell potentially substandard, counterfeit or otherwise unsafe pharmaceuticals, pose a real threat to consumers," said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery.

"The sentence handed down today serves as an effective deterrent to those who would peddle counterfeit pharmaceuticals – particularly those drugs trafficked over the Internet."

The U.S. Justice Department says the Food and Drug Administration wrote to Mr. Strempler as early as 2001 to tell him his drug sales would be illegal in the United States. The letter stated that the quality of drugs from foreign sources could not be assured and were not approved for sale.

But the Justice Department says Mr. Strempler and his co-conspirators sold drugs to Americans "falsely representing that RxNorth was selling safe prescription drugs in compliance with regulations in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States."

The agency further states that Mr. Strempler obtained prescription drugs from various other countries without properly ensuring their safety or authenticity, and that some of the drugs were counterfeit.

"Counterfeit prescription drugs sold through the Internet pose a serious health hazard to consumers in the United States," said U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer.

"These drugs can be adulterated, ineffective and unsafe."