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Contraband
10/14/2010

Canadian doctor indicted for treating professional athletes with human growth hormones

BUFFALO, N.Y.--  A federal grand jury in Buffalo Oct. 14 returned a five-count Indictment charging Dr. Anthony Galea, 51, of Toronto, Canada, with a variety of federal offenses, including smuggling misbranded and unapproved drugs into the United States for the purpose of treating professional athletes.  The drugs included human growth hormone (HGH) and other unapproved drugs. The indictment also charges Galea with conspiracy, fraud, and making false statements to officers and agents of the Department of Homeland Security in order to avoid detection and to sneak the substances into the country.

The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr., and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton.

"This indictment should stand as a warning to those who conspire to import prohibited pharmaceuticals into the country, and unlawfully distribute them, that we will use all appropriate means to locate and prosecute these criminals," said ICE Director John Morton. "ICE's Homeland Security Investigations is committed to protecting the American people from potentially dangerous drugs and to ensure that those who seek to distribute them face justice."

The indictment charges that from at least July 2007 through Sept. 14, 2009, the defendant conspired to smuggle HGH, nutropin (a form of HGH) and actovegin (a derivative of calf's blood) into the United States from Canada. The indictment states that Galea performed medical services upon more than 20 professional athletes, even though he did not have a license to practice medicine in the United States.

        
The indictment lists more than 70 border crossings by Galea, many of them at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, N.Y.  The Indictment further alleges that once in the United States, Galea traveled to cities including Cleveland, New York City, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., Denver, San Francisco, San Diego and Phoenix for the purpose of providing medical services for the athlete patients. Galea was assisted by his employee, Mary Anne Catalano, with the two agreeing to falsely state to American border officials that their purpose for coming to the United States was to attend medical conferences.

HGH is only approved by the FDA for use in humans in very limited circumstances, such as AIDS cachexia, short bowel syndrome, and adult human growth hormone deficiency. The substance has been specifically banned by professional sports organizations for use by athletes. While actovegin is not banned by the professional sports organizations, it is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"My office, along with our federal law enforcement partners, will not tolerate any attempts to either breach our nation's borders or to bring drugs that are not approved by the FDA into the United States," said U.S. Attorney Hochul. "There is a reason why the public expects the FDA to determine which substances can be safely used in this country. Misuse of certain substances can obviously be harmful, regardless of whether or not they are being administered by a medical professional."

"Today's action demonstrates our commitment to protecting the public from those individuals involved in the unlawful distribution of human growth hormone and misbranded drugs" said Special Agent in Charge Mark Dragonetti, FDA - Office of Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office. "The Office of Criminal Investigations commends the U.S. Attorney's Office on this investigation as well as our law enforcement counterparts." 

"The Dr. Galea case began after CBP officers encountered his assistant attempting to smuggle human growth hormone (HGH) into the United States using the NEXUS Trusted Traveler lane at the Peace Bridge border crossing on September 14, 2009," said James T. Engleman, CBP Director of Field Operations for the Buffalo Field Office. "Attention by CBP officers to detail during the inspection process and cooperation with Homeland Security Investigations ensured the success of this enforcement action."

The indictment is the result of an investigation by special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, under the direction of ICE Special Agent in Charge Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Lev Kubiak, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of  Special Agent In-Charge James Robertson, and the U.S.  Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, New York Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent In-Charge Mark Dragonetti. The case was presented to the grand jury by Assistant United States Attorney Paul J. Campana who will handle the trial of the Indictment.

Conspiracy, unlawful possession with intent to distribute HGH and making false statements to federal officers and agents are each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The maximum penalty for introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce is three years and a $10,000 fine. A conviction for smuggling carries a maximum prison term of twenty years and a $250,000 fine.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.