May 24, 2021: History repeating: Doctor injected patients with black market medicine

Benjamin Franklin Sanford, Jr., a physician in  Starkville, Mississippi, will serve three years’ probation and pay more than half a million dollars in fines, forfeitures and restitution for treating his patients with illegally imported, non-FDA approved osteoporosis drugs between 2013 and 2018.

Between 2012 and 2016, after the Food and Drug Administration found illegally imported, fake versions of the cancer drug Avastin  in the U.S. drug supply, the agency warned more than 3,000 medical practices to stop buying non-FDA approved medicines from foreign drug sellers. 

Sign on a door

Sanford's practice closed briefly in 2018 for federal investigation. (Source: The Commercial Dispatch)

Other Prosecutions and Seizures

Jeremy Gongas of Puyallup, Washington pleaded guilty to federal drug charges for dealing heroin, fentanyl pills and methamphetamine. Gongas continued to distribute narcotics even after law enforcement found dealer-quantities of them during a search of his home in July 2020.

Aumontae Smith of Portland, Oregon pleaded guilty to federal charges for conspiring with an unnamed accomplice to distribute counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl in and around Portland.

Federal courts charged four Connecticut residents with the distribution of oxycodone pills, counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, and other drugs in the Hartford area. Court documents alleged that the pills were sold out of neighborhood grocery stores in New Britain and Hartford.

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics arrested two people who were allegedly operating an illegal pill manufacturing operation in the back of a liquor store in Tulsa. They seized a pill press with methamphetamine residue and pill molds for counterfeit prescription drugs, including Xanax and Percocet.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas has charged a San Antonio man who allegedly sold the fentanyl pills that killed a person on October 28, 2020.

In California, Vacaville police announced the arrest of a Suisun man who allegedly provided the fake Percocet pills made with fentanyl that killed a Vacaville resident in April.

U.S. Border Control agents at the Highway 86 checkpoint near Salton Sea, California seized fentanyl pills and methamphetamine from a woman driving a stolen vehicle.

Investigators made controlled purchases of illegal pills at this and two other small Hartford, Connecticut markets. (Source: Google)

Warnings and Deaths

In Louisiana, the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of 18-year-old Hailey Deickman of Belle Chasse, who died May 18, 2021 after taking part of a street pill sold as a prescription Percocet. The DEA in New Orleans issued a warning about the pills on May 21.

Franklin, Massachusetts resident Donna Shaffer lost her 37-year-old son Michael to fentanyl poisoning in February when he took a counterfeit Xanax he got from someone he knew. Now, Shaffer is advocating for Massachusetts laws that hold dealers accountable when the drugs they provide kill people.

Tarrant County, Texas resident Stephanie Hellstern spoke about her 16-year-old son Kyle, who died of acute fentanyl poisoning in July 2020 after taking counterfeit pills.

Idaho State Police warned that five Kootenai County residents—four men and one woman, ranging in age from 15 to 60 —had died of fentanyl poisoning after taking counterfeit prescription pills.

Officials in Eugene and Coos Bay, Oregon and Hawaii also warned about an uptick in fentanyl poisonings, some of which were caused by counterfeit pills.

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