June 20, 2022: $230 million in diverted HIV drugs—again?

This week: The Justice Department charged a Miami man for selling sketchy HIV medication with forged documentation to U.S. pharmacies. Courts in California, New York, Ohio and Washington indicted four dozen alleged fentanyl pill traffickers in unconnected investigations. Eleven more stories involved pressed pills in eight states, as well as Ireland and Mexico.

Source: Second Amended Complaint, Gilead Sciences v Safe Chain Solutions, et al.

The Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the Southern District of Florida indicted a Florida man for selling $230 million in illegally-sourced HIV medication with forged labels and documentation, through a network of licensed drug wholesalers to pharmacies throughout the country in 2019 and 2020. 

Three additional cases involving adulterated or counterfeit HIV treatments have surfaced since federal courts unsealed Gilead Sciences' lawsuit against a network of distributors in January. PSM has been tracking supply chain breaks that impact HIV and HEP C patients here.

Watch to learn why cases like these are such a threat to patients

Counterfeit pills across the country

In the Northeast

New York’s Attorney General indicted 12 people for drug trafficking, including a New Paltz resident who allegedly sold cocaine and counterfeit Adderall and oxycodone made with methamphetamine and heroin in Ulster, Dutchess and Saratoga counties. Police seized 15,000 fake Adderall pills, 750 fake oxycodone pills and 5,000 Xanax pills during the investigation.

Police in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia’s DEA High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Task Force arrested four men from Riverside, California after finding them in possession of 40,000 fentanyl pills and 11 pounds of methamphetamine.

In the South

An El Paso mother spoke at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s first ever Family Summit on the Overdose Epidemic about her 25-year-old son, Jacob Talamantes, who died in Addison, Texas in April 2020, after taking a counterfeit Percocet made with fentanyl.

A Washington Post column about educating college students about fentanyl pills reported the death of 16-year-old Makayla Cherie Cox of Virginia Beach in January 2022 and an unnamed 16-year-old in Harrisonburg, Virginia in October 2019. Abdallah Amer Ali, who sold the fatal pill to the Harrisonburg 16-year-old via Snapchat, pleaded guilty to one count of distributing fentanyl that resulted in death on June 6th.

With this death in Virginia, public sources have reported deaths from counterfeit pills acquired on Snapchat in 22 states. Learn more

In the Midwest

How many pills did police seize in this Wisconsin bust?

A Kewanee, Illinois man is facing drug charges after local police and DEA agents recovered 10,000 suspected fentanyl pills from his vehicle during an investigation.

Four men were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly trafficking more than eight kilograms of fentanyl pills from Arizona to the Cleveland, Ohio area.

A man in La Crosse, Wisconsin was charged with felony drug trafficking after a search of his storage unit yielded a pill press, 135 pounds of counterfeit Xanax, a pound of counterfeit Adderall that tested positive for meth, a pound of fentanyl and other drugs and drug paraphernalia.

In the Pacific West

Adrian Rodriguez Cardenas of Bakersfield, California received a six-year prison sentence for conspiring to distribute fentanyl. Cardenas sold an undercover agent more than 1,000 counterfeit pills made with fentanyl on two occasions in January 2021.

After a two-investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of California has indicted 26 people for trafficking illicit drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. Law enforcement seized 478,000 counterfeit pharmaceutical pills made with fentanyl and almost 70 kilograms of other narcotics over the course of the investigation.

A federal grand jury in Sacramento, California indicted five men for their roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy. A search of a storage unit associated with the ring yielded 42 pounds of illicit drugs, including two pounds of counterfeit M30 pills made with fentanyl.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that officers at California’s San Ysidro Port of Entry seized more than ten pounds of fentanyl pills hidden in the air filter of a motorcycle on June 6th.

Fentanyl pills hidden in an air filter of a motorcycle at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in June 2022 (CBP)

A Portland, Oregon mother shared the story of her son, Griffin Hoffman’s, death. The 16-year-old died in March 2022 after taking a prescription pill that he didn’t know contained fentanyl. A Vancouver, Washington resident has been charged in the case.

Cesar Valdez-Sanudo, who led a multi-state drug trafficking ring based in Arlington, Washington,  pleaded guilty to drug distribution and money laundering. Law enforcement seized 35,000 suspected fentanyl pills, approximately 106 pounds of other illicit drugs, 24 firearms, and approximately $625,000 over the course of the investigation. Sentencing is scheduled for October 2022.

International News

Mexican law enforcement seized 11 pounds of fentanyl pills, 110 pounds of white powder, 44 pounds of blue powder and an industrial pill press in the border town of San Luis Rio Colorado, across from Yuma, Arizona.

Irish authorities announced seizing two small shipments of fake oxycodone tablets made with metonitazene since January 2022.

Image from pill press bust in San Luis Rio Colorado, June 2022 (La Fiscalía General de la República)