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Intellectual Property Rights

Houston jury convicts distributor of counterfeit pharmaceuticals

HOUSTON – A federal jury Thursday convicted a Puerto Rican man on 12 counts relating to trafficking 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), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Luis Angel Garcia Torres, 41, of Patillas, Puerto Rico, was convicted of the following crimes:

  • one felony count of conspiring to traffic in counterfeit goods,
  • causing the introduction of misbranded prescription drugs into interstate commerce,
  • causing the introduction of counterfeit prescription drugs into interstate commerce,
  • six felony counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods,
  • three misdemeanor counts of causing the introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded drugs, and
  • two misdemeanor counts of trademark counterfeiting.

Garcia Torres used the Internet to obtain and distribute counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pharmaceutical drugs, which are FDA-approved prescription drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction. Viagra is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals; 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.

During trial, evidence established that Garcia Torres offered to sell Viagra and Cialis tablets. The retail cost at the time for Viagra and Cialis ranged from $15 to about $20 per pill. However, Garcia Torres was selling them for just $2 each after purchasing the tablets for $0.45 each.

Undercover HSI special agents purchased about 3,600 Viagra and Cialis tablets from Garcia Torres from Jan. 25, 2010 through Aug. 16, 2010. The pharmaceuticals were exported from China and shipped from a Puerto Rico address used by Garcia Torres to the HSI special agents in Houston. The tablets were analyzed by the trademark holders and FDA's Forensic Chemistry Center, and were determined to be counterfeit. Special agents also obtained a search warrant for the e-mail address used by Garcia Torres. They proved that he had obtained the counterfeit pharmaceuticals from China and discussed with his Chinese suppliers techniques to evade detection and seizure by law enforcement officials.

Garcia Torres faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, without parole, and a $2 million fine at his Aug. 30 sentencing. U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison, who presided over the trial, permitted Garcia Torres to remain free on bond pending that hearing.

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