Counterfeit Medicine News for April 12, 2021

Prosecutions

A U.S. District Court judge in Pennsylvania sentenced Stefan Knoche of Lebanon to 70 months in prison for trafficking counterfeit Viagra, Aurogra, Xanax, Levitra, Cialis, and Valium.

Robert Zeng of Salt Lake City, Utah pleaded guilty to the illegal sale of sexual enhancement drugs. Zeng imported sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, and sold it in a “natural” dietary supplement that he marketed online.  Undeclared prescription drug ingredients like these can lead to dangerous side effects in users

A federal grand jury in Nevada indicted three men in Sparks who allegedly distributed fentanyl pills and cocaine between November 2019 and March 2021. One of them allegedly used  southeast Reno high school students to distribute controlled substances, including fentanyl pills.

A federal grand jury in Ohio charged two Maple Heights men with drug trafficking after agents found illicit drugs, a high-speed pill press, and pill press dies in their home. Homeland Security Investigations located the operation after CBP seized two pill press die sets on their way to the residences.

Seizures

A California Highway Patrol canine named Apis found 11 pounds of fentanyl tablets and 81 pounds of methamphetamine during a traffic stop near Manteca.

A second canine, this one working for the Yuma Sector Border Patrol in Arizona, caught more than seven pounds of fentanyl pills hidden in a Dodge Dakota.

The Madera County Narcotic Enforcement Team shut down a large drug operation in La Vina, California, seizing 3,400 fentanyl pills among almost 50 pounds of other drugs.

The coroner’s office in Humboldt County, California reported that as of April 14, there had been eight confirmed 2021 fentanyl deaths in the county. In addition agents have seized over 187 grams of fentanyl and approximately 5,000 fentanyl pills, up from just three grams of fentanyl in 2020.

Law enforcement in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Moberly, Missouri and Dyersburg, Tennessee also reported fentanyl pill seizures.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that officers at the Houston Seaport intercepted a shipment of counterfeit N95 masks on their way from China to White Plains, New York on April 7.

Apis, a CHP K-9, helped uncover a  11 pounds of fentanyl in a speeding sedan during a recent stop. (Source:

Warnings and Deaths

The Oxford, Mississippi Police Department warned that ten people in the Lafayette-Oxford-University community had died of poisoning attributed to counterfeit prescription medications made with fentanyl over the last six months.

In Oregon, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office warned that fentanyl pills sold as oxycodone 30mg had been linked to poisonings and at least two deaths in the Rainier and Clatskanie areas.

Hastings, Minnesota resident Bridgette Norring lost her son Devin to a counterfeit fentanyl pill he bought on Snapchat last year. This week she was one of several bereaved parents who spoke out against Snapchat and Instagram’s failure to stop illicit drug sales on their platforms.

University Hospitals in Lorain, Ohio warned residents that scammers were marketing a fake COVID-19 remedy that contained bleach and other cleaning products to the city’s Latino community.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Center for Forensic Science Research & Education, which tracks the changing content of street drugs in the city’s Kensington neighborhood, found that counterfeit Xanax there is being made with unscheduled benzodiazepine analogues, including etizolam and flurazepam.

In Canada, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary reported seizing counterfeit prescription pills made with fentanyl and isotonitazene. This year’s 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment notes that isotonitazine has also been found in the U.S., sometimes in the form of counterfeit hydromorphone tablets.

Pills for sale on social media  (Source: Instagram post, September 2018)

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