Counterfeit Medicine News for February 1, 2021

COVID-19 counterfeits and fraud:

People around the world want to get their coronavirus vaccines, and COVID-19 scammers are on top of it.  Watch our video to learn about the kinds of vaccine fraud we're seeing.

Between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents seized nearly 13 million counterfeit face masks, 177,000 fake or unapproved test kits and 38,000 chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine tablets that were barred by the FDA.

A federal grand jury indicted a Missouri state legislator on fraud charges for allegedly marketing a fraudulent stem cell treatment as a treatment for various diseases, including COVID-19. The allegations also include the distribution of oxycodone and Adderall over the internet without valid prescriptions and making false statements to federal agents.

The Washington State Hospital Association learned  from mask-maker 3M that at least some of the 300,000 N95 masks it had distributed to hospitals were counterfeit.

The Food and Drug Administration warned three online sellers of hydroxychloroquine to stop making false claims that the medicine treats or prevents COVID-19.

After a man offered to sell “extra” Pfizer vaccine for $500 on a local message board, Washington D.C. police warned the public to beware of scammers defrauding people by selling COVID-19 vaccines.

Robert S. Stewart, Jr of Arlington, Virginia pleaded guilty to making false statements to multiple federal agencies to obtain more than $40 million in government contracts he did not fulfill, and receive more than $330,000 in COVID-19 emergency relief loans, and military service benefits.

Forgery rings selling fraudulent COVID-19 test certificates to travellers have been discovered in France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Mexico.

The police in China arrested 80 people for their alleged roles in a counterfeiting ring that manufactured and sold more than 3,000 fake coronavirus vaccines across the country.

Counterfeit News:

Prosecutions:

After pleading guilty in August 2020, Saybyn Borges of Reno, Nevada received a 10-year-and-one-month prison sentence for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl. He sold undercover agents  almost 7500 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl in 2018.

A Federal court in Manhattan, New York charged two men with conspiring to import two tons of methamphetamine and 100,000 fentanyl pills into the United States. The drugs were intercepted in Sinaloa, Mexico by the Mexican Navy on January 29, 2021.

Law enforcement in New Jersey and New York dismantled a narcotics trafficking network, arresting 20 people and seizing over 800 grams of fentanyl pills and more than 14,500 grams of other illicit drugs.

The Morgan County, Georgia Sheriff’s Drug Enforcement Unit is seeking a man in Decatur, after it found illicit drugs, a pill press, and other drug paraphernalia in his home.

The Metro Area Narcotics Task Force in Bismarck, North Dakota arrested a Detroit, Michigan man for selling counterfeit oxycodone pills.

Police in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania charged a second man with providing the fake Percocet that killed Isaiah Cruz, who died of fentanyl poisoning in December 2019.

In Poland, police shut down a counterfeit medicine ring that distributed tens of millions of counterfeit cancer and psychiatric drugs, as well as anabolic steroids and products for erectile dysfunction to customers in Europe and the United States.

Fentanyl pills seized by the Mexican Navy before they entered the U.S., January 2021 (Source: USAO-SDNY)

Seizures:

The Niagara Regional Police Service Major Drug and Gang Unit seized 400lbs of an unknown powder, an industrial pill press, and 20,000 fentanyl pills in realistic-looking Teva-Oxycocet bottles just over the Canadian border in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The seizure closely resembles another Ontario seizure from June 2020.

In Marion County, Tennessee, the 12th Judicial Drug Task Force seized hundreds of counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl when a dealer tried to deliver them to a person in Kimball.

CBP at Chicago O’Hare International Airport seized nine pounds of sildenafil citrate tablets from a passenger returning from a trip to India who said he had planned to share them with friends.

Learn more about the Niagara Regional Police Service's recent fake pill factory bust.

Warnings and Deaths:

Authorities in Burlington, Washington warned that four residents had suffered from fentanyl poisoning after taking counterfeit pills. Although all of them survived, two men, aged 26 and 61, were transported to the hospital for treatment. 

A 16-year-old in Bellingham, Washington died after she took counterfeit Percocet made with fentanyl.

According to the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington, as of December 2020, 89% of police-confiscated fentanyl in Washington State is in tablet form.

In Minnesota, police in Rochester and Roseville announced that four people died of fentanyl poisoning after taking counterfeit opioid painkillers. 

Officials in Boulder County, Colorado issued a warning about fentanyl in street drugs, including counterfeit Xanax.

PSM is keeping a steady eye on public reports of dangerous counterfeit drugs and other medical products. Check back for next week’s summary.