HOUSTON, Texas - Randy Gonzales, 40, a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines, was extradited to the United States from Bangkok, Thailand, for conspiring to import and distribute counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs into the United States, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle and Robert Rutt, Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Office of Investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today. Gonzales is the first foreign national to be extradited to the United States for conspiring to import and distribute counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
"This investigation and extradition illustrates ICE's commitment to bring to justice, no matter where in the world they hide, those responsible for smuggling counterfeit and substandard products," Rutt said. "Counterfeit pharmaceuticals not only cause economic damage to the legitimate trademark holders, but many times present a health and safety issue for the American consumer who unwittingly purchase and use them."
Gonzales was extradited to the United States Feb. 28 after a criminal complaint charged Gonzales with participating in a conspiracy to import and distribute counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pharmaceutical drugs. He was arrested by the Royal Thai Police March 7, 2007, with a formal ceremony held in Thailand Nov. 27 to execute his extradition. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Calvin Botley today, at which time the United States sought his continued detention without bond pending further criminal proceedings.
Gonzales' extradition was the result of an investigation by ICE and the Food and Drug Administration. According to the criminal complaint, beginning in July 2005, Gonzales was allegedly advertising the sale of Viagra and Cialis pharmaceutical drugs over the internet. Viagra is a pharmaceutical drug manufactured by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and Cialis is a pharmaceutical drug manufactured by Eli Lilly Company. Both are considered lifestyle pharmaceutical drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction.
The criminal information alleges that through e-mail communications with Gonzales, agents acting in an undercover capacity discovered Gonzalez had secreted large quantities of loose counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pills in packages of general merchandise that had arrived in Houston from China. The packages had been sent to Mohammad Gawasmmah, an individual who operated RU Sophisticated, a general merchandise store located on Harwin Drive in Houston. Gonzales, through e-mail communications, told agents that Gawasmmah and another individual named Fayez Aledous could deliver counterfeit pills. During the year-long investigation, agents made several undercover purchases of counterfeit Cialis and Viagra pills and seized more than 60,000 counterfeit Viagra pills and 15,000 counterfeit Cialis pills. The loose counterfeit Viagra and Cialis tablets were packaged in plastic bags along with bottles and counterfeit labeling. Once the counterfeit pills arrived in Houston, the pills were then placed in bottles and the counterfeit labeling was affixed to the bottles. The counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pills are valued at more than $776,000.
Mohammad Gawasmmah and Fayez Aledous were convicted after entering guilty pleas to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit good and trafficking in counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Aledous was convicted Oct. 3, 2007, and Gawasmmah was convicted May 11, 2007, of the same charges and have been sentenced to 20 months and 21 months, respectively.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by ICE and the FDA. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Samuel Louis.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.