Texas Trio

3 Texas residents are alleged to have received more than 30 shipments of fake medications and acted as drop-shippers for a drug counterfeiting operation run from China. Counterfeit versions of painkillers and lifestyle drugs were among the seized fakes.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced the indictment of three Texans on counterfeit drug and illegal pharmaceutical importation charges. Thomas Giddens, Wanda Hollis, and Catherine Nix, all of Athens Texas, have been charged with “conspiracy to smuggle merchandise into the United States, seven counts of causing the introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead, seven counts of smuggling and one count of tampering with a witness,” according to the DOJ. Giddens and Nix additionally face tampering charges.

According to the indictment (pdf), the trio began their importation scam in November 2009. Additionally the indictment states that none of the three were “in any way authorized by law, licensed in any state, or competent through any medical education and training to administer prescription drugs, professionally supervise the use of prescription drugs, dispense prescription drugs, hold prescription drugs for sale, fill a prescription for drugs, or make an oral or written prescription for drugs.”

They utilized at least 4 different post office boxes to accept 30 or more packages with deceptive customs descriptions such as “toys” or “gifts” with little or no monetary value, and once they became aware that they were under investigation, asked family members to destroy evidence in an effort to avoid prosecution, the DOJ alleges.

The seized counterfeit drugs ranged from copies of psychiatric medications such as Xanax, Valium and ED medications that contained little or none of the active ingredient, to weight loss medications containing dangerous, banned pharmaceuticals such as Sibutramine and Phenolphthalein, reports the indictment.

The DOJ quoted Acting Director Philip J. Walsky of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) on the occasion of this indictment, “A key element of FDA’s mission to protect the public’s health is to ensure that safe and effective prescription drugs are properly distributed via the supply chain and dispensed to the ultimate consumer, and that includes ensuring that those prescription drugs contain the treatments that patients expect. We will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who would put the public’s health at risk by introducing illegal prescription drugs.”

FDA-OCI Acting Director Phillip Walsky participated in the 2014 Interchange during a panel titled “Drug Counterfeiters Target Americans”. For a complete agenda for Interchange 2014, click here.

By S. Imber