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Pakistani man residing in Houston sentenced to more than 2 years for trafficking counterfeit drugs

HOUSTON — A Pakistani man was sentenced to two years and three months in federal prison for conspiracy to illegally import and traffic in counterfeit and misbranded drugs.

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Resident Agent in Charge Tommy R. Hennesy from the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI).

Mohammad Jamal Rashid, 45, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge David Hittner to 27 months in federal prison for both counts of the conviction. Rashid pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to illegally importing and trafficking in counterfeit and misbranded drugs, and receiving and delivering misbranded drugs. As a non-U.S. citizen, he is expected to face deportation proceedings after he's released from prison.

In arriving at the sentence, Judge Hittner noted the serious risks posed by illegal importing counterfeit prescription medications, Rashid's direct and personal role in having the drugs sent to his home, and the results of testing done on the drugs Rashid received. Specifically, it was noted that the Viagra tablets contained less active ingredient than what was printed on the label. In addition, the Cialis tablets did not contain any of its active ingredient, but rather the active ingredient of Viagra.

Judge Hittner also noted that the counterfeit and misbranded drugs Rashid imported looked like the authentic product. Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a drug is considered misbranded when it does not contain the information written on its packaging and labeling. A drug is considered counterfeit when it, or its container or labelling, bears trademarks without the authority of the registered trademark holder.

"This conviction is the culmination of a multi-agency effort to prevent counterfeit pharmaceuticals being smuggled and distributed into the United States," said Moskowitz. "Intellectual property- (IP) related crimes such as this remind us of the potential public safety hazards posed by IP thieves who care more about profits than people."

Rashid, a U.S. permanent resident originally from Pakistan and residing in Houston, admitted he conspired to illegally importing counterfeit and misbranded Viagra and Cialis to his home in Houston under a false name and with a false declaration waybill. A total of 3,200 counterfeit Viagra and 4,000 counterfeit Cialis were sent from China to Rashid's home in open foil blister packs without packaging or labels.

Although the drugs sent to Rashid looked authentic, testing conducted by the FDA, Pfizer and Eli Lilly confirmed the drugs were not authentic and were in fact counterfeit and misbranded. The tablets also had inconsistencies in physical appearance and packaging. Additionally, the counterfeit Viagra had less of Pfizer's active pharmaceutical ingredient than the 100mg stated on the foil pack; the counterfeit Cialis did not contain any of Eli Lilly's active pharmaceutical ingredient.

"Distributing counterfeit and misbranded drugs puts the health of the public at risk," said Hennesy. "The FDA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect unsuspecting consumers from unsafe and illegal products."

Rashid will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Redlinger, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.