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Intellectual Property Rights

Pakistani man residing in Houston pleads guilty to trafficking counterfeit pharmaceuticals

HOUSTON — A U.S. permanent resident from Pakistan and residing in Houston pleaded guilty Friday to illegally trafficking in counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI).

"This conviction is the culmination of a multi-agency effort to prevent the smuggling and distribution of counterfeit pharmaceuticals across international borders," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "This case serves as a reminder that HSI will use all its resources to identify, investigate and dismantle these criminal networks wherever they operate."

Mohammad Jamal Rashid, 45, a U.S. permanent resident originally from Pakistan and residing in Houston, admitted he conspired to illegally import counterfeit and misbranded Viagra and Cialis pharmaceutical drugs to his home under a false name and with a false declaration waybill. A total of 3,200 counterfeit Viagra and 4,000 counterfeit Cialis were sent from China to Rashid's home in open foil blister packs without packaging or labels.

Although the pills sent to Rashid looked authentic, testing conducted by the FDA, Pfizer and Eli Lilly confirmed the drugs were counterfeit and misbranded. The tablets had inconsistencies in physical appearance and packaging. Additionally, the counterfeit Viagra had less of Pfizer's active pharmaceutical ingredient than the 100mg stated on the foil pack. The counterfeit Cialis pills did not contain any of Eli Lilly's active pharmaceutical ingredients.

"Distributing counterfeit and misbranded drugs puts the health of the public at risk," said Tommy R. Hennesy, resident agent in charge of the FDA-OCI. "The FDA will take firm action to protect unsuspecting consumers from products that are deceptive and could be dangerous to their health."

U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who accepted Rashid's guilty plea, has set sentencing for April 7. At that time, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy conviction, and up to three years and a $10,000 fine for receiving and delivering the misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

Previously released on bond, Rashid was taken into custody following the Jan. 10 hearing where he will remain pending sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Redlinger, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.