Counterfeit Medicine News for March 26, 2021


Santiago Benito Mercado-Aguayo of Concord, California received a seven-and-a-half year federal prison sentence for drug trafficking. Mercado-Aguayo sold an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent 1500 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in 2020.

In St. Louis, Missouri, Nitica Lee pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the death of 22-year-old Daysha Phillips, who died after Lee injected her with black market silicone in July 2015. She received a five-year prison sentence.

Luis Colon of Stratford, Connecticut pleaded guilty in federal court to his part in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl disguised as oxycodone between July and December 2020.

A federal grand jury in Pennsylvania indicted a Thai national who allegedly smuggled chloroquine phosphate into the country and fraudulently sold it to U.S. citizens as a treatment for COVID-19.

A Rhode Island man and two co-conspirators were arrested for running a drug distribution ring while he was in prison. Law enforcement searched a residence in Cranston and found almost 4,000 Adderall pills, 110 grams of fentanyl pills and a pill press during the course of the investigation.

A La Jolla, California man faces murder charges for allegedly providing the fake pills that caused the fentanyl poisoning death of 49-year-old Sally Ricchiuti in September 2020.

Federal courts indicted a man in Fresno, California on drug charges after law enforcement found him with fentanyl pills in January 2021.

A Rome, Georgia resident faces second-degree murder charges after his three-year-old grandson died after allegedly consuming a fentanyl pill while in his care.

Law enforcement in Bellevue, Washington charged a 24-year-old who allegedly sold the fentanyl pills that killed Ryan Turman in June 2020 with controlled substance homicide.

Law enforcement arrested two teenagers in Venus, Texas for their alleged connection to counterfeit pill poisonings and deaths in the Fort Worth area.

The FDA published a safety communication about the hazards of injected silicone in 2017. Read it here.


Deputies in Yavapai County, Arizona seized 52,000 fentanyl pills concealed in a child’s car seat during a traffic stop.

Deputies in Bakersfield, California seized more than 50,000 fentanyl pills and three pounds of methamphetamine during a traffic stop.

A patrol dog at an immigration checkpoint in Yuma, Arizona alerted Customs and Border Protection agents to five pounds of fentanyl pills stuffed inside foiled-wrapped breakfast burritos.

Investigators confiscated 40,000 counterfeit Adderall pills that contained methamphetamine and 10,000 counterfeit Xanax pills made with fentanyl during a traffic stop in Irvine, California.

There were also fentanyl pill seizures in Clinton, North Carolina; Eagle County, Colorado; Holbrook and Mesa, Arizona; and Humboldt County, California.

Overseas, police seized over nine million counterfeit Clonazepam tablets from a clandestine laboratory in Hungary. The fake pills had been sold all across Europe.

Fentanyl pills concealed in burritos. Seized in Yuma, Arizona in April 2021 (Source: CBP) 

Warnings and Deaths

Share our 30 second PSA to raise awareness about fake post-vaccine surveys.

In Overland Park, Kansas, Bobbi Caggianelli shared the story of her 19-year-old son, Adrian, who died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a counterfeit Xanax in July 2020.

The Texarkana Arkansas Police Department warned that three people had suffered fentanyl poisonings—one fatally—as a result of counterfeit pills circulating in the area.  Authorities in California, Idaho, New Mexico, New York, Nevada also issued warnings about counterfeit pills.

Homeland Security Investigations warned about fraudulent post-COVID-19 vaccination surveys being used to capture consumers’ personal information and potentially to steal money from them.

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