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Contraband
06/02/2008

Texas man charged with smuggling Mexican prescription drugs

Multi-agency probe revealed El Paso-based network distributed pharmaceuticals throughout U.S.

EL PASO, Texas - A local man was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents Friday and criminally charged with smuggling prescription drugs into the United States from Mexico. The Internal Revenue Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service participated in the investigation.

A federal grand jury indicted Alejandro Herrera, 57, April 8 after a nearly three-year investigation by ICE and its law enforcement partners. He had his initial appearance Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard P. Mesa.

Herrera is named in a six-count indictment that charges him with conspiring to smuggle goods into the United States; aiding and abetting the smuggling of goods into the United States; conspiring to introduce an unapproved new drug into interstate commerce; conspiring to introduce a misbranded drug into interstate commerce; and conspiring to commit money laundering.

The indictment alleges that Herrera had been engaged in smuggling pharmaceutical drugs into the United States from Mexico since 2000. He allegedly used family members to smuggle and distribute the pharmaceuticals throughout the United States, including to businesses in Chicago and Detroit. Herrera is also charged with laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars from his alleged criminal activity.

Herrera is believed to have distributed hundreds of thousands of doses of smuggled pharmaceuticals. Among them are drugs containing pseudoephedrine, which is a major component in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, and "Neo-Melubrina," a drug containing Dipyrone that has been banned in the United States since the late 1970s because of its potentially fatal side effects.

"ICE will aggressively investigate individuals and criminal enterprises involved with felonious activities, especially when those activities threaten the safety of the American people," said Roberto G. Medina, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in El Paso. "One of the keys to dismantling these pharmaceutical smuggling networks is to follow the money trail, because greed is what fuels this dangerous trade."

Medina credited the pooling of information, intelligence and resources among ICE and its law enforcement partners to the successful completion of this case, which disrupted a criminal organization that posed a serious risk to U.S. consumers.

James Maxwell, supervisory special agent in charge of the El Paso office of IRS Criminal Investigation, emphasized that money laundering constitutes a serious threat to our communities and to the integrity of our financial system.

"IRS-CI has the financial investigators and expertise that are critical to locating the money and prosecuting the offenders," he said. "IRS-CI, together with the law enforcement community, is united in our resolve to financially disrupt criminal organizations that commit crimes against our local communities, society and the world economy."

The indictment also seeks a monetary judgment against the defendant in the amount of $440,702.50, which represents the amount of proceeds derived from Herrera's alleged criminal activity. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gibson is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.