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According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), John and Plabplueng Hayes of New Ipswich, NH pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to distribute misbranded drugs obtained from India. Documents and statements in court established that the two defendants conspired with an unindicted co-conspirator in India and James and Shannon Hayes, John Hayes’ brother and sister-in-law in North Carolina, to receive shipments of pills from India which were then sold via the internet. Shipments were received three to five times every week, totaling hundreds of thousands of pills over the course of the conspiracy. The pills were sold to various customers over the internet. James and Shannon Hayes pleaded guilty in North Carolina to related charges.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized over 60 shipments addressed to John Hayes for delivery to his house and various post office boxes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Those shipments from India contained more than 100,000 pills in blister packs with no additional packaging, safety instructions or even any indication for what use the pills were intended for. CBP sent letters to John Hayes explaining that the seized shipments were not being allowed into the country because he lacked the express authorization of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Testing showed that thousands of the pills were either prescription drugs or controlled substances.

“The importation and sale of misbranded drugs presents a serious threat to the community,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Farley in the DOJ press release. “Consumers who purchase such drugs cannot be confident that the products that they are using have been manufactured under appropriate and sanitary conditions. Ingesting such pills can lead to unexpected and dangerous consequences. I appreciate the hard work of the law enforcement agents in this case who identified and dismantled this dangerous operation.”

Records from the U.S. Postal Service and PayPal showed that an email used by both defendants sent more than 5,000 packages throughout the U.S. between February 2012 and September 2013. The defendants used the same email account to communicate with the unindicted co-conspirator in India, track customer orders, and coordinate payments. A search of the Hayes residence in New Ipswich resulted in the seizure of over 100,000 pills, shipping labels, empty shipping containers, and other documents. Included in the documents were two letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) informing Hayes that his shipments of tramadol tablets were refused entry in the U.S. because the drugs appeared to be unapproved and misbranded.

The FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Huftalen and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Hawkins prosecuted this case.