Counterfeit Medicine News for April 19, 2021

COVID-19 Fraud

U.S. Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) announced over the last year Operation Stolen Promise, its COVID-19 crime initiative, seized over $48 million in illicit proceeds; opened more than 1,000 criminal investigations; and made more than 2,000 seizures of mislabeled, fraudulent, or prohibited COVID-19 vaccines, test kits, and equipment, including more than 21.2 million counterfeit respirator masks.

Pfizer, Inc found counterfeit versions of its COVID-19 vaccine in Mexico and Poland. About 80 people paid a Mexican clinic about $1,000 a dose for the fake vaccines; Polish authorities seized the counterfeits before they reached patients.

The Pan American Health Organization reported that counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines are also being sold via social media in Argentina and Brazil.

A federal grand jury in Miami indicted Mark Grenon and three sons because they have allegedly defied a court order to stop selling Miracle Mineral Solution, which is made of industrial bleach, as a cure-all for illnesses such as cancer, autism and COVID-19. In April 2019, the FDA warned that drinking the substance had caused vomiting, diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure and acute liver failure.

A suspected counterfeit vial of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine from Poland is examined under magnification. (Source: Pfizer via the Wall Street Journal)


Reynaldo Perez Munoz of Pasco, Washington received a 26-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges in August 2020. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Streets Task Force seized over 19,000 fentanyl-laced pills and 67 pounds of other illicit drugs over the course of the investigation.

Erik Rafael Polanco of Waterbury, Connecticut will serve 29-months in federal prison for heroin and fentanyl trafficking as part of a larger investigation which saw the seizure of kilogram quantities of heroin/fentanyl  and 1,000 fentanyl pills disguised as Percocet pills.

A federal jury convicted Bruce Holder of Grand Junction, Colorado of distributing fentanyl and counterfeit substances that killed a Carbondale man in 2017. Holder sold tens of thousands of counterfeit pills made with fentanyl, including the half of a pill that killed Ashley Romero in June 2018.

Javier Martinez of Meriden, Connecticut pleaded guilty to fentanyl and heroin trafficking charges. Law enforcement found more than 300 fentanyl pills and kilograms of fentanyl and heroin in his home and car in February 2020.

The Northern District of California announced the indictment of a San Francisco Bay Area California physician who allegedly defrauded and endangered her patients by treating them with cosmetic injectables she purchased online from unlicensed foreign sellers.

A federal grand jury indicted a Red Bluff, California man on drug trafficking charges after police found approximately 1,000 counterfeit M-30 Oxycodone pills in his car and hotel room.

An Arizona man was arrested after he allegedly provided a 16-year-old Gilbert resident with counterfeit Percocet made with fentanyl. The 16-year-old was hospitalized, and remains in a medically induced coma.

A Cleveland County, North Carolina resident was arrested for allegedly selling 30 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl to a man who was found dead in Boiling Springs in September 2020.

Warnings and Deaths

In a story about an uptick in fentanyl-related deaths in the New Orleans, Louisiana area, Megan Rogers Stark spoke about the loss of her brother, Jacob Rogers, to counterfeit Xanax.

DEA in Raleigh, North Carolina issued a warning about fentanyl pills. Three people from nearby Apex—including 20-year-old Matthew Thomas—died after encountering fake Percocet pills last year.

Authorities also issued warnings in Ector County, Michigan, Nye County, Nevada, LaGrande and Portland, Oregon and Kansas City where police are investigating several deaths and more than 65 poisonings that may be related to the fake pills.

Bruce Holder distributed fentanyl pills that killed a Carbondale, Colorado man in 2017. He also sold the pill that killed 32-year-old Ashley Romero in June 2018. Read about Ashley.

Colorado families who lost loved ones to fake pills made with fentanyl got justice last week. Watch "Counterfeiting Charges Stick" or do a deep dive into the indictment and  jury's Instructions.

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