On November 18, after a year-long law enforcement partnership between federal, state and local officials, approximately 30 federal search warrants were issued in Mississippi in search of counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
A team of nearly 100 law enforcement agents participated in the operation, according to a press release from the Mississippi’s Attorney General’s Office. The operations involved the U.S. Attorney’s Office-Northern and Southern Districts (MS), the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Food and Drug Administration and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, all in partnership via Mississippi’s Operation Knock Out Knock-Offs Task Force.
“[The raids are] a key example of how Operation Knock Out Knock-Offs is working in Mississippi,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “By partnering with federal and local officials, we can help protect consumers from dangerous fakes.”
The first part of the operation focused on creating the state task force and the second phase centered around educating consumers and vendors about the dangers of counterfeit drugs. The operation received additional federal funding in October and will continue into next year.
“We are just getting started,” said Hood. “Counterfeiters are on notice that we mean business.”
According to the release, from February 2010 to November 2010 undercover agents made dozens of purchases of counterfeit drugs at “convenience type businesses” throughout the Magnolia State, according to the press release. These counterfeit drugs reportedly included fake pain killers, antibiotics and birth control medication along with supplements not approved for sale in America.
“Unapproved, uncleared, or misbranded products pose a clear and present danger to the public health,” said David W. Bourne, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations Miami Field Office, in the release. “We will continue to join with our law enforcement counterparts to aggressively pursue those who place consumers at risk for their own financial gain.”
The ability to work across local, state and even international jurisdictions was essential to the operation’s success, according to Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE Homeland Security Investigations office in New Orleans.
“The smuggling of substandard, tainted or counterfeit products violates U.S. laws and regulations and threatens public health and safety,” said, Raymond R. Parmer, Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office in New Orleans. “Our ability to work together across the federal government and with agencies around the world is a strong and appropriate response to a growing international threat.”