HOUSTON — A Mexican woman was convicted Friday after pleading guilty to conspiring to smuggle prescription drugs into the United States, and receiving and delivering misbranded drugs with the intent to defraud.
This guilty plea was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez, Southern District of Texas. This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and the Houston Police Department’s Major Offenders Division.
Carolina Aguilar Rodriguez, 47, who illegally resided in Conroe, Texas, admitted she purchased prescription drugs from individuals who were not licensed wholesale distributors, and knowing they had covertly and illegally entered the United States from El Salvador and Mexico. These drugs were not manufactured in the United States, were not approved for use in the United States, should not have been present in the United States, and did not contain labels and warnings in English as required by law to protect consumers. One of the drugs — Diprospan — was found to be counterfeit as well as misbranded, and it did not contain the active pharmaceutical ingredients listed on its labeling.
Rodriguez operated a store, Naturavida, located on Blalock Road in Houston. She admitted to selling, dispensing and administering from this store a wide variety of the prescription drugs to customers who did not have prescriptions or any type of physician’s orders. These drugs included antibiotics, antivirals, erectile dysfunction drugs, birth control, hormones, pain killers, diuretics and anti-inflammatory medications, such as the injectable corticosteroid anti-inflammatory Diprospan.
Rodriguez is not a physician or pharmacist. She also did not label the prescription drugs with specific physician instructions for each patient as required by law. Rodriguez further admitted that she did not tell customers she obtained the prescription drugs outside of the legitimate supply chain from distributors who illegally and covertly smuggled the drugs into the United States.
U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon accepted Rodriguez’s guilty plea and set sentencing for Jan. 26, 2018. At that time, Rodriguez faces up to five years in federal prison for the conspiracy conviction, and another three years for receiving and delivering misbranded drugs in interstate commerce. She also faces fines up to a $250,000 fine. Rodriguez remains in federal custody pending her sentencing hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Redlinger, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.