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Counterfeit Drug Importation Charges Reinstated Against Prominent Wisconsin Pharmacist

Wisconsin pharmacist and former Wisconsin State Pharmacy Board member, Marla Ahlgrimm, and her alleged co-conspirator Balbir Bhogal are facing a renewed indictment from their 2010 counterfeit medication importation case. The pair are alleged to have imported more than 4 million fake pills into the United States to fill the orders for a Costa Rican online pharmacy that caters to U.S. customers.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has reopened its case against former Wisconsin State Pharmacy board member, Marla Ahlgrimm. Also facing indictment is Nevada pharmacologist, Balbir Bhogal. According to a report in Madison.com, the pair were originally charged in with these counterfeit drug importation crimes in 2010, but the charges were dropped. The current case is based on the same charges, which have been reinstated by prosecutors.

Ahlgrimm and Bhogal are currently facing a 10-count indictment that charges them “with importing and distributing controlled substances and misbranded drugs, trafficking in counterfeit drugs, mail and wire fraud, smuggling and money laundering,” according to the DOJ.

The DOJ report describes the allegations against the pair, alleging that from June 2007 to May 2010, they arranged for the manufacture of and imported millions of tablets of fake medication that were then distributed to the U.S. customers of a Costa Rica-based fake online pharmacy operation. The fake medications included controlled substances, such as alprazolam and phentermine, as well as prescription drugs, like carisoprodol and counterfeit ED medication.

The FBI notes that although neither Ahlgrimm nor Bhogal held importer’s licenses from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the duo arranged for and facilitated the importation and delivery of the fakes to the United States.

Ahlgrimm and Bhogal’s 2014 indictment alleges they acted to have counterfeit medications by the millions produced in India, which they then sold to the Costa Rica based fake online pharmacy in bulk. The Fake online pharmacy then used U.S. based drop-shippers to break up and label the pills for shipment to their online customers.

In 2010, Madison.com spoke to one of Ahlgrimm’s patients who expressed serious concerns about being treated by a pharmacist charged with counterfeit drug importation. Sandy Ripp wondered, “Is she mixing up baking soda and putting it in the pills? How do you find out if what’s in these capsules are real?”

This case has been jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and Homeland Security Investigations. This case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Evan C. Williams of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney William P. Campos of the Eastern District of New York.

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