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Intellectual Property Rights

Distributor of counterfeit pharmaceuticals sentenced to 10 months in prison

HOUSTON – A North Carolina man was sentenced Monday to federal prison for conspiring to distribute counterfeit pharmaceuticals and trafficking in pharmaceuticals bearing false labeling and counterfeit trademarks, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations.

Shane Lance, 41, of Archdale, N.C., was sentenced Nov. 5 by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore to 10 months in prison, with five months to be served in home confinement. He was further ordered him to pay $5,100 to trademark holder Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for investigative costs. He pleaded guilty to the charges.

The investigation and prosecution of Lance revealed he received and distributed counterfeit Viagra and Cialis throughout the United States from a China-based company that used the Web address www.hardtofindrx.com to advertise and sell counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

Viagra and Cialis are prescription drugs that are FDA-approved for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Viagra is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, while Cialis is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Eli Lilly. Viagra and Cialis are registered trademarks on the principal register in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The investigation, which began in March 2011, disclosed that www.hardtofindrx.com offered pharmaceutical drugs such as Viagra and Cialis on its website at prices substantially lower than the retail value for Viagra and Cialis tablets. Beginning in March 2011 and continuing through August 2011, special agents purchased Viagra and Cialis pharmaceutical drugs from the website and later received shipments from a sender located on the 200 block of Irbywood St. in High Point, N.C.

Although Viagra and Cialis can only be obtained by prescription from a physician, the individuals operating the website did not request or require a prescription prior to sending the drugs to undercover special agents. In July 2011, HSI Houston special agents were notified by HSI special agents in Winston-Salem, N.C., that video surveillance cameras at a U.S. post office had recorded an individual who mailed several packages using the Irbywood address.

After receiving Viagra and Cialis pharmaceutical drugs, HSI special agents forwarded samples of the tablets to the trademark holders Pfizer and Eli Lilly, and the FDA's Forensic Chemistry Center for analysis. The tablets were determined to be counterfeit. Upon obtaining still photographs from the postal facility, special agents identified Lance as the individual who shipped the counterfeit Viagra and Cialis.

Assistant U.S Attorney Samuel Louis, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.