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June 29, 2015Houston, TX, United StatesIntellectual Property Rights and Commercial Fraud

California man pleads guilty in Houston to trafficking misbranded, counterfeit prescription drugs

HOUSTON — A California man pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit Viagra® and Cialis®, and introducing misbranded prescription drugs into interstate commerce.

This guilty plea was announced by the following agency heads:  U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Moskowitz of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston; and Special Agent in Charge Katherine A. Hermsen of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), Kansas City Field Office.

Martez Alando Gurley, 40, from Napa, California, admitted at his pre-arraignment hearing June 29 that he purchased 15,000 to 18,000 counterfeit Viagra and counterfeit Cialis tablets from an individual in China he knew as “Alice,” as well as an additional 3,600 to 4,800 tablets from another individual within the U.S. He admitted he knew the drugs were prescription medications and that he could not legally distribute them. He also said he knew the drugs were counterfeit.

“The introduction of counterfeit drugs into the market should concern every consumer of these products,” said Moskowitz.  “The best defense against unknowingly buying these untested items of unknown origin is to purchase them from legitimate authorized sources."

Gurley sold the counterfeit drugs to at least 11 individuals across the country for between $40 and $50 per bottle. Testing on samples of the counterfeit Viagra revealed the drugs contained less than the 100 mg of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API).  Testing on the counterfeit Cialis revealed small quantities of the Viagra API and none of the Cialis API. In addition, some of the counterfeit Viagra tablets were found to contain the unrelated compound 2-MBT.

“Counterfeit prescription drugs pose a risk to the public health and undermine the public’s confidence in the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs, which the FDA oversees,” said Hermsen. “We will continue to protect the public’s health by working to remove counterfeit drugs from the marketplace and bring counterfeiters to justice.”

U.S. District Judge David Hittner accepted the plea June 29 and has set sentencing for Sept. 22. At that time, Gurley faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

These charges result from a joint investigation with HSI and FDA-OCI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Redlinger, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.