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Intellectual Property Rights

Orange County man charged with distributing misbranded "all-natural" sexual enhancements

SANTA ANA, Calif. - An Orange County man, who is currently serving 10 years in federal prison for health care fraud, has been charged with distributing misbranded drugs called "Vitalex" that were marketed as "all-natural" versions of sexual enhancement medications such as Viagra.

Phu Tan Luong, also known as Peter Luong, 55, formerly of Huntington Beach, Calif., and his daughter, Helene Ngoc Bich Luong, 26, who formerly resided at a family's Huntington Beach home that has since been seized by the government, were charged in a criminal information filed last week in U.S. District Court.

The investigation was spearheaded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with substantial assistance provided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The criminal information alleges Luong and his daughter used a company called Vitapro, Inc. to deliver into interstate commerce misbranded drugs called Vitalex for men and Vitalex for women. The drugs were advertised and labeled as "herbal sexual enhancement supplements" and "all-natural" versions of Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.

However, these "supplements" actually contained an unregulated drug - an Acetildenafil-analog - similar to those found in brand name erectile dysfunction drugs which pose a serious health risk. The Luongs allegedly obtained the components of Vitalex from China and shipped the drugs from Orange County throughout the United States and to other countries.

Five years ago, Phu Tan Luong was convicted of 35 counts of health care fraud and five counts of money laundering in connection with a medical supply company he owned called United Medical Supply that submitted fraudulent claims to Medicare. Luong was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in the scheme that resulted in approximately $14 million in losses to Medicare. Using money generated by the United Medical Supply scheme, Phu Tan Luong started Vitapro, and, with the help of his daughter, he continued to run the business after entering prison in late 2006.

The FDA executed a search warrant in April 2008 and seized a large amount of the Vitalex products and packaging from the Vitapro business and Luong family residence.

While the FDA shut down the Vitapro business, Vitalex products continue to be sold over the Internet.

The Luongs are each charged with one count of delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of a misbranded drug, a misdemeanor offense that carries a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison.

Helene Luong is believed to be in Canada. Phu Tan Luong, who is currently in a federal prison facility in Pecos, Texas, is expected to be returned to Southern California for arraignment June 7.