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February 2, 2017Honolulu, HI, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

2 New York residents plead guilty to illegally dispensing and administering cosmetic prescription drugs and importing misbranded drugs

HONOLULU – Two New York residents face up to five years in prison after pleading guilty in federal court in Honolulu to conspiring to illegally dispense and administer cosmetic drugs without being a licensed medical professional.

Bu Young Kim, 40, and Chan Hui Cho, 40, both of Brooklyn, New York, appeared in court Jan. 25 to answer to the charges, which stem from a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Food and Drug Administration. In addition to the conspiracy charge, the defendants also pleaded guilty to illegally importing misbranded drugs; and smuggling more than $79,000 in cash from the U.S. to South Korea. Kim and Cho are scheduled to be sentenced July 13 by U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi.

According to court documents, Kim and Cho regularly traveled to South Korea to obtain cosmetic prescription drugs, which they intended to administer to individuals in Hawaii and elsewhere. Upon acquiring the drugs from their sources in Korea, Kim dispensed the products to individuals seeking facial cosmetic and “filler” type treatments and procedures. Neither Kim nor Cho had any formal medical or pharmaceutical training, and neither was licensed to practice medicine. Kim and Cho charged between $100 and $500 per session, and administered their treatments to numerous individuals at personal residences and businesses.

Information presented in court also revealed the products Kim obtained and administered contained active pharmaceutical ingredients requiring a prescription. The products included Dysport, a cosmetic medication similar to Botox; Lidocaine, a numbing agent; Liporase Injectable Hyaluronidase, an injectable spreading substance used to encourage the dispersion and absorption of fillers; substances containing betamethasone, a corticosteroid used to alleviate inflammation and treat severe skin conditions; substances containing dexamethasone, another corticosteroid; and substances containing triamcinolone acetonide, a topical and injectable corticosteroid.

“Drugs and medical devices are strictly regulated in order to protect the American consumer,” said Joanna Ip, special agent in charge for HSI Honolulu. “Individuals who circumvent those regulations potentially expose patients to unsafe products that could cause serious harm. HSI will continue to target those whose actions put the health and safety of our citizens at risk.”

Evidence presented in court showed that Kim and Cho were interdicted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors in Honolulu in March 2016 attempting to smuggle more than $79,000 out of the U.S. concealed on their person and in sanitary napkin containers in their luggage. An additional another $86,000 in U.S. currency was seized during a search of Kim and Cho’s Queens, New York, residence.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ken Sorenson and Amalia Fenton.

Updated: 03/14/2023