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Intellectual Property Rights

New Zealand physician sentenced for trafficking in counterfeit erectile dysfunction drugs

LOS ANGELES – A New Zealand physician, who acted as a large-scale supplier of bogus erectile dysfunction drugs to distributors in California, Texas and Europe, was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $200,000 in restitution on charges stemming from a long-term probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Robin Han, 43, who resided in China prior to his arrest earlier this year, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge George Wu. Han pleaded guilty in July to three counts of criminal counterfeiting. In addition to the prison time, Judge Wu ordered Han to pay $196,160.92 in restitution.

Han was originally indicted in December 2007, but remained at large until March 29. He was taken into custody at San Francisco International Airport following his arrival on a flight from Hong Kong after officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) determined he was the subject of an international law enforcement alert. Subsequently, Han was transferred to Los Angeles where he has remained in federal custody ever since.

"Counterfeit prescription drugs represent a serious threat to the integrity of the medical supply system that the public needs to rely on with confidence," said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr., whose office prosecuted the case. "Mr. Han violated his oath as a physician and betrayed the public trust in putting his own greed before the safety of consumers."

"This sentence should serve as a stern warning to those selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals over the Internet," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Imposter drugs like these pose a serious threat to buyers who mistakenly assume these substances are safe."

The HSI probe into Han's activities began in 2006 after CBP officers at a mail facility in northern California intercepted a parcel shipped from China that contained counterfeit Cialis tablets and phony Cialis packaging. The ensuing investigation identified Han as the sender.

According to the indictment in the case, Han advertised the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals on a number of websites, including alibaba.com. During the course of the probe, HSI special agents made undercover buys of some 20,000 counterfeit Viagra, Cialis and Levitra tablets with an estimated retail value of more than $196,000. The parcels Han shipped to the undercover special agents contained packing slips which falsely claimed the contents were plastic stationery holders and pen boxes.

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.

As the federal agency responsible for the management, control and protection of U.S. borders, CBP is on the frontline of intellectual property enforcement. The men and women of CBP protect our nation's economy, the safety of its people, and our national security against harm from counterfeit and pirated goods. The continued vigilance of CBP personnel protects United States citizens and businesses every day.