What Really Happened to This Young Millionaire?

Chris Smith chartered a yacht and set off with his model girlfriend. Or did he?

What happened to Chris Smith after he told his family he was heading to South America on a yacht? (Getty Images)
Getty Images

Chris Smith was a million dollars richer after a buyout of his advertising company, so he and a former Playboy Playmate named Tiffany were taking off to sail the world. Smith was 30, and he had met Tiffany in Las Vegas, according to an email sent to his family. They had chartered a 45-foot yacht, including a captain and a cook, and they were heading to South America.

Smith had always wanted to have a meaningful, adventurous life. But as time went on, his emails to his parents grew dark, talking about taking drugs and thoughts of killing himself. Paul Smith, Chris’s brother, knew that Chris was under a lot of stress before the trip, with finalizing the buyout of his company, as well as worried about getting sued or that the IRS was going to fine him for back taxes. And clearly, Chris’s vacation was not curing the stress.

Five months in, Chris wrote that he had forsaken the Playmate and the yacht and was in India. He planned to be on the road for a while, hitting maybe going to Egypt and Morocco. Chris sent an email to Paul asking him to meet up in Costa Rica in February so they could surf and “talk about everything.” But the last email Paul received from his brother was on December 26, and Chris mentioned selling Krugerrands, a South African gold coin. “I’m headed back up through the Congo,” Chris had written. “I found a dealer in Rwanda that will pay 30 percent markup on krug’s.” No one heard from Chris again.

In March 2011, Smith’s parents reported him missing to the U.S. State Department, but they came back with astonishing news: “There is no confirmation he actually departed the United States,” the administrator told the family. Police searched Smith’s old office, finding it covered in blood. So what happened to Chris? Did he ever leave the U.S.? A new profile in GQ explores the true story behind the killer vacation.

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