ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Two Israeli citizens pleaded guilty Monday and were sentenced for smuggling counterfeit and misbranded pharmaceuticals into the United States, including the erectile dysfunction drug marketed in the United States as Cialis®. The sentences resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Office of Criminal Investigation for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with essential assistance from the Israeli National Police.
Benny Carmi, 59, and Moshe Dahan, 39, appeared April 23 before Federal District Court Judge Carol E. Jackson in the Eastern District of Missouri.
Carmi admitted that he introduced misbranded prescription drugs into interstate commerce, smuggled prescription drugs into the United States, and sold counterfeit prescription drugs. Carmi was sentenced to 10 months in prison and must pay a criminal fine of $30,000 and forfeit $50,000 to the United States.
Dahan also admitted to smuggling prescription drugs into the United States. He was sentenced to one year of probation and is required to pay a $15,000 fine. Dahan paid a forfeiture of $15,000 to the United States.
"Counterfeit pharmaceuticals pose a very serious threat to our public health and safety," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "People shouldn't have to put their health in jeopardy because they bought a prescription drug online that is fake, substandard, tainted or untested. HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to keep imposter drugs off the street and aggressively pursue those who place consumers at risk for their own financial gain."
According to court documents and testimony from Monday's hearings, both men operated an Internet business in Israel that used multiple websites, including "allpillsrx.com," "newpharm.net," "pharmacy-on-line.com," "pharmacy-on-line.com," and "pharmacy-pal.com," to illegally sell large amounts of prescription drugs to U.S. purchasers. About 9,029 separate drug shipments to were sent to purchasers in the United States, generating about $1,475,363 in gross proceeds.
Carmi and Dahan were prosecuted after the government conducted a series of undercover purchases on some of the defendants' Internet websites and ordered prescription drugs and controlled substances, including the drug marketed in the United States as Meridia®, without providing a valid prescription from a qualified health care professional. In response, the defendants shipped a number of drug packages to shipping addresses located in the Eastern District of Missouri containing prescription drugs.
Typically, packages containing drugs were imported to St. Louis, Mo. from China and India, with the exterior packaging falsely describing the contents of the shipments as "gifts" that had "no commercial value."
Laboratory test results of samples of the drugs obtained through defendants' Internet websites revealed that these drugs were not genuine versions of the drugs that had been manufactured in FDA-approved drug manufacturing plants in accordance with federal law.
Moreover, some of defendants' drugs were sub-potent, containing less than the amount of active drug ingredient than what was specified in the labeling for the drugs.
The defendants are also forfeiting the Internet domain names of their illegal drug websites.
"The FDA-Office of Criminal Investigations will continue to work with our international and domestic law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who seek to sell counterfeit, adulterated and misbranded pharmaceuticals to U.S. citizens via the Internet." said Patrick J. Holland, Special Agent in Charge of the Kansas City Field Office, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations."
This case is part of HSI's Operation Guardian, a multi-agency effort to combat the increasing important of substandard, tainted and counterfeit products that pose a health and safety risk to consumers.