June 14, 2021: Operation Pangea XIV stops $23 million in fake and unapproved medical products

Every year, Interpol coordinates Operation Pangea, a seven-day initiative that targets the sale of counterfeit and unauthorized medical products. This year, officials in 92 countries arrested 277 people, shut down more than 113,000 fraudulent web links belonging to fake online pharmacies, and seized fake and unapproved oncology drugs, vitamins, erectile dysfunction pills and painkillers. COVID-19 fraud was also well-represented: more than half of the medical products were fake or unauthorized COVID-19 testing kits.

COVID-19 Fraud

Authorities in Uttar Pradesh, India shut down a fake drug manufacturing operation and seized counterfeit azithromycin and favipiravir, both of which are drugs used to treat COVID-19 patients. Police also discovered 17,000 counterfeit tablets of favipiravir in a pharmacy in Cuttack, Odisha.

Watch our news of the week about this year's Operation Pangea.

Prosecutions and Seizures

Nicholas Andrew Puccio of Columbus, New Jersey pleaded guilty to distributing undeclared steroid-like drugs in dietary supplements from 2016 to 2020.

Tymalk Quane Love, an inmate at an Oklahoma Department of Corrections facility, pleaded guilty to facilitating the sale of methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl pills from prison between January 2018 and February 2019. 

A La Crosse, Wisconsin woman who allegedly supplied the counterfeit pills made with fentanyl that killed 26-year-old Colten Thorpe in February 2021  has been charged with reckless homicide. 

Federal authorities allege that a Fairfax, Virginia couple and their cousin sold thousands of counterfeit fentanyl pills and kilogram quantities of methamphetamine in Culpeper, Spotsylvania, Winchester, Fairfax and elsewhere.

The Jessamine County, Kentucky Sheriff’s Office seized $98,000, 2,816 pressed fentanyl pills, marijuana and paraphernalia during a drug bust this week. 

The Los Angeles Police Department announced that a Palm Desert, California resident had been arrested in May on suspicion of selling prescription drugs without a license after she sold counterfeit Botox to undercover officers.

A police officer in Bonners Ferry, Idaho seized fentanyl pills and methamphetamines during a traffic stop in early June. 

Agents of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation found fentanyl powder, fentanyl pills, and meth in the home of a Gillette man who is facing drug charges.

A man in Leominster, Massachusetts was arraigned last week on drug charges.When police searched his home in April, they seized 224 grams of methamphetamine disguised as Adderall, as well as other drugs.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers at the El Paso area ports of entry seized more than 280 pounds of illicit drugs, including two pounds of fentanyl pills over the course of seven days in early June. 

Overseas, Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority reported that seizures of illegal medicines increased 58 percent in 2020. The most common drugs seized were sedatives, ED drugs, painkillers, steroids and COVID-19 medicines, particularly traditional Chinese medicine that had not been approved for use in Ireland. 

Puccio sold supplements made with ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulators that can cause liver toxicity, heart attacks and strokes. Read FDA's warning about that class of drugs.

Warnings and Deaths

This week families in Bakersfield, California and South Venice, Florida spoke out about their loved ones’ deaths as a result of counterfeit pills made with fentanyl.

Officials in Missoula, Montana and Clackamas County, Oregon warned residents that they had seized counterfeit oxycodone made with fentanyl.


A photo of pills seized by Missoula police containing fentanyl and acetaminophen. 

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