In a first case of its kind, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced indictments in New York against two individuals from New Jersey for allegedly running multiple sham online pharmacies that shipped customers counterfeit pills made with U-47700, a fentanyl analogue. Authorities arrested and charged both Evelin Bracy and Jorge Rodriguez Lopez with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, distribution of controlled substances over the Internet, and conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with a large-scale drug distribution operation purporting to be an online pharmacy.
According to the criminal complaint, since at least around January 2015, Bracy and Rodriguez Lopez conspired with others to sell fentanyl and oxycodone on multiple websites that made customers think they were online pharmacies. No prescriptions were required, and after placing an order on one of the websites, transactions were finalized via email. It is stated that members of the conspiracy shipped hundreds of orders that contained controlled substances throughout the United States.
The criminal complaint says in some cases, customers thought they were ordering legitimate drugs such as alprazolam or oxycodone, but instead received counterfeit pills made to look like those drugs, but made with U-47700. Multiple internet websites directed all traffic to “Online Pharmacy Website,” which said if offered prescription medications to customers in the United States, but was itself hosted out of Argentina. Authorities tied the counterfeit pills sold by this drug ring to one overdose death on March 17, 2017 in Boise, Idaho by analyzing the victim’s computer and banking histories.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Valeria Nickerson said, “The two individuals arrested allegedly have been distributing powerful narcotics not just in New Jersey, but across the United States, based on orders placed through a supposed online pharmacy.” Nickerson credited the hard work of men and women at the DEA and the United States Postal Inspection Service for bringing an end to this illegal operation.