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Intellectual Property Rights

Distributor of counterfeit pharmaceuticals sentenced to 21 months in prison

HOUSTON — A man from Puerto Rico was sentenced to 21 months in prison Thursday on 12 counts related to the trafficking of counterfeit goods, 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).

Luis Angel Garcia Torres, 41, of Patillas, Puerto Rico, was convicted by a jury of one felony count of conspiring to traffic in counterfeit goods; causing the introduction of misbranded prescription drugs into interstate commerce; and causing the introduction of counterfeit prescription drugs into interstate commerce. He was also convicted of six felony counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods, three misdemeanor counts of introducing into interstate commerce drugs that are misbranded, and two misdemeanor counts of trademark counterfeiting. Torres was convicted on all counts June 14 following a four-day trial.

Torres used the Internet to obtain and distribute counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pharmaceutical drugs, which are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription drugs used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Viagra is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, while Cialis is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Eli Lilly. Both are registered trademarks on the principal register in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison, who presided over the trial, sentenced Torres Sept. 20 to 21 months in federal prison, followed by a three-year-term of supervised release.

During trial, evidence established that Torres offered Viagra and Cialis tablets for sale. The retail cost at the time for Viagra and Cialis ranged from $15.00 to $20.00, but evidence established he was offering them for sale for just $2.00 each. Evidence also established he was purchasing the tablets for 45 cents each.

HSI special agents, working in an undercover capacity, purchased about 3,600 Viagra and Cialis tablets from Torres via the Internet from Jan. 25 to Aug. 16, 2010. Evidence indicated the pharmaceuticals were exported from China and shipped from a Puerto Rico address used by Torres to undercover special agents in Houston. The pharmaceuticals were later analyzed by the trademark holders and the FDA Forensic Chemistry Center and determined to be counterfeit.

HSI special agents also obtained a search warrant for the email address used by Torres and found proof he had obtained counterfeit pharmaceuticals from China and discussed techniques to evade detection and seizure by law enforcement officials with individuals residing in China.

Previously released on bond, Torres was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Leuchtmann and Samuel Louis, Southern District of Texas prosecuted the case.