LOS ANGELES — A Koreatown man was sentenced Monday to 30 months in federal prison for smuggling nearly 40,000 counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills that were discovered in a golf bag and other luggage when he entered the United States at Los Angeles International Airport last year.
Kil Jun Lee, 73, who resides in the Koreatown district of Los Angeles, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who said the sentence, in part, was due to the threat to public health posed by the counterfeit pills. The case is a result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with substantial assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
In May, a federal jury found Lee guilty of three counts of smuggling and three counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods for bringing the phony pills into the United States in February 2012. The retail value of the pills would have been more than $750,000 had the medications been genuine.
The counterfeit products – purporting to be Viagra, Cialis and Levitra – were discovered by CBP officers at LAX when Lee returned from a trip to China that included a stop in his native Korea. Most of the pills were hidden in a golf bag.
Analysis of the pills showed they were inconsistent with the genuine products. While many of the pills contained the active ingredient for the brand name medications, they typically contained the wrong amount (up to 150 percent of the claimed dose) or contained the active ingredient for a competitor's product (so the purported Viagra would contain the active ingredient found in Cialis). Some of the counterfeit pills had no active ingredient at all.
When HSI special agents subsequently searched Lee's residence, they found a small number of counterfeit pills, as well as numerous counterfeit labels that were hidden under a rug.
"The danger of this conduct is substantial," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. "Indeed, while the government is not aware of any inherently harmful chemicals contained in the pills, the prospect of a user ingesting pills that contain more active ingredient than is listed on the pill, or a different active ingredient than is supposed to be in that pill, raises serious medical concerns."