LOS ANGELES – A Laguna Hills man was arrested Tuesday morning on charges that he used the internet to sell misbranded veterinary medications without a prescription.
Sean Gerson, 48, the owner of a business called Vaccination Services in Lake Forest, was taken into custody by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Gerson is scheduled to make his initial appearance Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Gerson was arrested pursuant to a two-count criminal complaint filed Dec. 6. The complaint alleges Gerson delivered into interstate commerce two misbranded drugs - Comfortis, an anti-flea medication, and ciprofloxacin, a powerful antibiotic commonly called “Cipro” that can be used in dogs and cats to treat skin, respiratory, and urinary tract infections. The complaint, which contains one felony count and one misdemeanor count, alleges the drugs were knowingly dispensed without a prescription. The affidavit in support of the complaint also alleges Gerson sold Comfortis that was designed for the South African market and was not approved for distribution in the United States.
“Uncontrolled distribution of antibiotics and medication pose a threat to public safety, including the fostering of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The drugs involved in this case allegedly were distributed without the supervision of a licensed professional, which greatly increases the risk of unintended consequences beyond the animals taking the medication.”
According the affidavit, Gerson allegedly used several websites – including www.fleastuff.com, www.mydoghasfleas.xyz and www.fleaandtickstuff.com – to market prescription animal products to buyers without valid prescriptions, rendering the medications misbranded. Additionally, federal law prohibits the importation and sale of veterinary medicines that have not been approved by the FDA and EPA for use in this country.
In conjunction with Gerson’s arrest, federal investigators executed a search warrant at a Laguna Hills storage unit linked to Gerson, where they seized a variety of veterinary prescription products.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
If he is convicted of two counts in the complaint, Gerson would face a statutory maximum sentence of three years in federal prison.
This week’s arrest marks the second time Gerson has been linked to the illegal sale of pet medications and products. He pleaded guilty in Harris County, Texas, in 2014 to state charges of delivery of a dangerous drug, specifically a prescription drug called Clenbuterol. According to the affidavit filed in connection with this week’s charges, following that conviction, Gerson agreed to work as a confidential informant for authorities, with the stipulation he could not sell animal prescription drug products.
The case against Gerson is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Joseph O. Johns, Chief of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.