Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced a $20,000 penalty and a ten-year injunction against the owners of two businesses allegedly involved in the sale of misbranded, illegal, and counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The order prohibits Iris Anabelle Gonzalez and Hugo Gonzalez Nava from engaging in the sale of pharmaceuticals. The two businesses, Tienda Puerto Quetzal and Tienda Quetzal Nava, were closed and evicted by their landlords after receiving notice from the City Attorney of illegal activity and the lawsuits earlier this year.
Along with snacks, piñatas, herbal remedies and creams, employees at Tienda Puerto Quetzal and Tienda Quetzal Nava sold misbranded and counterfeit medicines, including injectable anti-inflammatories and an injectable birth control. Some of the employees allegedly offered to inject the medications for a small fee, despite the business not being a pharmacy and they not being pharmacists. Investigators made seven undercover purchases at the stores and employees allegedly told them they could purchase large quantities of drugs with two days’ notice and a deposit. A search of the businesses in May 2018 resulted in a confiscation of 1,725 pharmaceutical products at one store and over 1,130 at the second.
One of Feuer’s most important partners in working to keep counterfeit medicines off the streets of Los Angeles is the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT). Members of the task force include the Los Angeles County Health Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and a licensed pharmacist. HALT’s work has resulted in over 450 investigations, 300 arrests, confiscation of over $4.5 work of black market pharmaceuticals, and the closure of over 60 businesses. Many of the products they come across have non-English labels, lack lot number, warnings, or expiration dates, and are not in their original packaging.
In comments about this case, Feurer said “Counterfeit and illegal pharmaceuticals can be deadly. My office and our law enforcement partners continue to fight to protect our residents. The closure of these two businesses, coupled with strong injunctive terms, sends a clear message to those who seek to prey on our community.”Just earlier this year, Feuer filed three lawsuits against eight individuals for selling fake medicine. The Los Angeles City Attorney published tips on how consumers can avoid counterfeit and illegal pharmaceuticals. Those tips are available in English and Spanish.