Manuel Calvelo, a Belgian citizen, has pled guilty to operating an internet pharmacy that sold $1.4 million worth of misbranded/counterfeit drugs as well as controlled substances in U.S. District Court in Kansas on January 21st, 2011. A co-conspirator, Jeffrey Westmoreland of Canada, is fugitive.
Who: Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations, Justice Department’s Office of Consumer Litigation.
When: January 21st, 2011; counterfeit drugs imported and sold via the Internet by Mr. Calvelo from 2005 through 2008
Where: Kansas City, Kansas USA.
How: Sting operation conducted by the FDA-OCI.
Once extradited from Costa Rica, Mr. Calvelo was charged in Kansas District Court with conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to commit drug trafficking. He pled guilty, admitting that from 2005 to 2008 he and Westmoreland operated online pharmacies offering fake drugs available without doctor prescriptions to U.S. customers in violation of federal law, reports ABC Kansas affiliate KAKE.
Calvelo admitted setting up web-based pharmacies, including cheapestviagraworldwide.com, allcheapdrugs.com, allcheappills.com, cheapdrugspharmacy.com, allmedspharmacy.net, allnaturalpharmacy.com, horizonpharmacy.net, and trustgeneric.com, to accept orders from buyers in the United States. His illegal pharmacy was operated via a call center located in the Philippines and distributed employee salary via wire transfers to the Philippines, Costa Rica and the United States.
The websites were hosted by web hosting companies in Overland Park, Kansas and Columbus, Ohio.
According to the FDA in a statement, “Calvelo’s Web sites offered for sale more than 40 prescription drugs including brand names Viagra, Depakote, Glucophage, Zoloft, Lipitor, Cialis, Xanax, Ativan and Klonopin. Controlled substances for sale from the Web site included Alprazolam (sold under the brand name Xanax), Lorazapam (Ativan) and Clonazepam (Klonopin). Under federal law, the crime of misbranding includes dispensing a prescription drug without a valid prescription from a licensed practitioner.”
The FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigation made purchases from Calvelo’s websites in 2007. An undercover agent posing as an American pharmaceutical wholesaler seeking to create an online pharmacy spoke extensively with Calvelo via video conference calls on Skype. In the calls, Calvelo provided detailed descriptions of the operation and his role within it.
“Americans must have confidence that drugs introduced into and distributed throughout the United States are genuine, FDA-compliant products. The FDA will aggressively pursue all foreign and domestic perpetrators of illegal drug distribution schemes.” Patrick J. Holland, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA-Office of Criminal Investigations, reported KAKE.
“Belgian Citizen Pleads Guilty To Federal Charges In Kansas,” KAKE10 NBC Affiliate, Witchita, Kansas. January 21st, 2011.
“Internet Pharmacy Sold Counterfeit Viagra, Misbranded Drugs,” FDA-OCI Press Release. January 21st, 2011.