Fake Pill Importer, Last of the Texas Trio, Sentenced to 15 months in Counterfeit Drug Case

Texas TrioIn 2014, Federal Prosecutors indicted 3 Texans on charges that they were importing counterfeit versions of prescription medications from China for resale in the United States. This month, the last of the 3 has been sentenced to 15 months in prison.

On February 3, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Catherine Nix had been sentenced to a year and three months in prison for her role in importing counterfeit medication into the U.S. Her sentence was the final chapter in the tale of the trio of Texans that were first indicted in 2014 for importing Chinese-made counterfeit drugs.

According to the DOJ, Nix pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States. She and her co-conspirators smuggled “at least 43 known shipments, totaling approximately 106,000 pills, from China to Texas. The shipments contained unapproved, bogus versions of several FDA-approved drugs that, because of the health and safety risks associated with their use, require valid prescriptions to dispense. The prescription drugs seized included: Xanax®; Valium®; sibutramine; Cialis®; Viagra® and Stilnox®, marketed in the United States as Ambien®. None of the pills that were seized and tested were legitimate. Some were sub-potent, but most contained entirely different active ingredients from their legitimate, approved versions. The defendants attempted to hide their smuggling by using shipping labels that concealed the contents of their shipments and customs declarations falsely describing the contents as ‘gifts’ or ‘toys.’ They used multiple addresses in an effort to reduce the likelihood of seizures by U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities.”

According to the original indictment, “The defendants were not in any way, (i) authorized by law, (ii) licensed in any state, or (iii) 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.”

The indictment further reports that the 3 defendants originally faced 24 charges: 1 Conspiracy charge, 7 charges of Causing the Introduction of Misbranded Drugs into Interstate Commerce with the Intent to Defraud or Mislead, 5 charges of Causing the Introduction of Misbranded Drugs into Interstate Commerce (Imitation Drugs), 7 Smuggling charges, and 4 Tampering with a Witness, Victim, or Informant charges.

The tampering charges were for both destroying evidence and for instructing a co-conspirator to destroy incriminating evidence, including the illegally imported drugs. The defendants were also accused of assaulting a co-conspirator in an attempt to insure that he would not assist law enforcement with their case.

Nix’ co-defendants Thomas Giddens and Wanda Hollis pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States as well. Giddens and Hollis were sentenced to 15 months in prison in October 2015.

This case was investigated by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Hurst for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas and by Trial Attorney John W.M. Claud of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.

By S. Imber