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Intellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud
08/03/2015

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4 men indicted in Houston for smuggling counterfeit veterinary products into US

HOUSTON — An indictment was unsealed Monday charging four men with various criminal offenses based on their alleged roles in smuggling counterfeit and falsely labeled pet products into the United States.

These charges were announced by the following agency heads:  U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas; Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Catherine A. Hermsen of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) in Kansas City, Missouri; and Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Moskowitz of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.

The following four men were indicted July 9:  Iain Nigel MacKellar, 58, of the United Kingdom; Lam Ngoc Tran, aka Mark Tran, 40, of Fountain Valley, California; Allen Smith, 49, of Phoenix; and William Humphreys, 58, of Laguna Hills, California. They are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, trafficking in counterfeit labels and smuggling goods into the United States. Mackellar and Tran also are charged with additional counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, trafficking in counterfeit labels and smuggling. The defendants are suspected members of one of the largest known groups of importers of counterfeit packaged pet products.

Smith turned himself in to authorities Aug. 3 and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy.  Humphreys and Tran were taken into custody in Phoenix and in California, respectively.  Tran made his initial appearance in Houston July 29; Humphreys is set to appear before Judge Milloy Aug. 4. MacKellar is considered a fugitive and a warrant remains outstanding for his arrest.

The indictment alleges the defendants smuggled veterinary products into the U.S., that were not manufactured for the U.S. market, for distribution under false labels, including Frontline and Frontline Plus pesticides manufactured by Merial Pharmaceutical Company (Merial). In some cases, the defendants allegedly imported the products into the U.S. under the pretense that the products were destined for use by charitable organizations.  Instead, they distributed the products to large retail outlets for commercial sale, according to the indictment.

Merial did not participate in, or authorize, the alleged unlawful conduct. All known counterfeit veterinary products have been removed from store shelves.

These charges resulted from a joint investigation conducted by FDA-OCI, HSI and the Environmental Protection Agency. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Lowery and Kebharu Smith, Southern District of Texas and Assistant Deputy Chief John H. Zacharia of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), are prosecuting this case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California and the CCIPS Cybercrime Lab provided significant assistance.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 08/04/2015