August 1, 2022: Study urges medical practices to be aware of unsafe pharmacies selling Gleevec

This week: A recent study finds fake online pharmacies selling a lifesaving chemotherapy drug without patient protections; a Canadian fentanyl trafficker, a seller of fake COVID treatments, and a spa owner who used illegal injectables all pleaded guilty; a mother and daughter pair are facing charges for distributing controlled substance medicines from India; the U.S. extradited industrial bleach scammer Mark Grenon from Colombia, and a dozen more stories about counterfeit pressed pills from across the country.  

Learn why buying from unlicensed pharmacies is so dangerous, consult our patient resources to find safer ways to get your medicine, and learn more about The DRUGS Act, which would give regulators tools to take sites like these offline.

In a July 2022 study researchers surveyed 44 English-language websites selling the chemotherapy drug imatinib to U.S. patients and found that only three were certified pharmacies. Legitscript classified more than half of the sites as "rogue" pharmacies that sold medicines without prescriptions, pharmacist consultations, drug-related warnings or other safety measures. Given these dangerous practices, the researchers urged healthcare providers to ensure that their patients have access to the drug via legitimate pharmacies.

Diana Daffin of Charlotte, North Carolina pleaded guilty to selling unapproved COVID-19 treatments with the intent to defraud or mislead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Daffin received two FDA warnings about the fraudulent treatments on her Holistic Healthy Pet website in 2021. She told the agency she had removed the products, but transferred sales to a password protected website.

Medical spa owner Richard B. Smith III, of Shawnee, Kansas, pleaded guilty to buying foreign and unapproved Botox and adulterated Juvederm from Alibaba and online pharmacies in China.  Smith, who was not a licensed practitioner, injected between 50 and 60 unknowing patients with the illegally imported products. At least 10 patients suffered negative effects.

A mother and daughter in Keizer, Oregon were charged for their alleged roles in a drug ring that imported hundreds of thousands of counterfeit pills, including controlled substances such as tapentadol, lorazepam, alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, carisoprodol, ketamine, and tramadol, from India, and distributed them to buyers across the U.S.

Mark Grenon, a Florida resident who, with his family, sells toxic industrial bleach he calls “Miracle Mineral Solution” as a cure for illnesses that include COVID-19, was extradited from Colombia. He's facing prosecution for fraud and criminal contempt of court.

Canadian Jason Joey Berry pleaded guilty to running a three-country fentanyl ring from his Quebec prison cell. Berry was one of 32 people indicted in "Operation Denial," an investigation into drug sales that led to 15 fentanyl poisonings (four fatal) in the U.S.

Learn how OCDETF shut down Operation Denial, a 32-person, three-country fentanyl trafficking conspiracy.

Counterfeit pills across the country

In the South

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents and detectives with the Murfreesboro Police Department arrested a 22-year-old in Nashville after seizing 15,000 fentanyl pills in Rutherford County.

In the Northeast

Xylazine has been a persistent problem in the Philadelphia area and is increasingly being seen across the country. (Image: Philadelphia Department of Public Health) 

24-year-old Nathaniel Mayer of Attleboro, Massachusetts received an 18-month jail sentence after a police raid in September 2021 yielded 2,500 counterfeit Xanax pills, counterfeit Adderall pills and other narcotics.

DeWitt Drayton of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received a ten-year prison sentence for running a counterfeit pill operation. Investigators caught him with thousands of pills, multiple pill presses and other supplies he used to make methamphetamine-laced ecstasy pills and counterfeit prescription painkillers made with substances like fentanyl and xylazine.

Josh Regatuso of Brighton Heights, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to drug charges after agents found two pill presses, etizolam powder, fake alprazolam pills and two bags of binding powder in May 2021. Regatuso spent six months in prison for a similar crime in 2017.

In the Midwest

Eight months after a three-year-old in Evansville, Indiana died of fentanyl pill poisoning, her grandmother has been charged with child neglect resulting in death.

Two people in Bemidji, Minnesota were charged with third degree murder after they allegedly distributed the fake Percocet made with fentanyl that killed a third Bemidji resident on June 29th.

In the Mountain West

52-year-old Douglas Floyd of Colorado Springs, Colorado pleaded guilty to conspiring with two other people to provide fentanyl pills that killed a 16-year-old on January 31, 2022. One of the two co-defendants is the teen's mother, who had allegedly been providing Xanax, marijuana and fentanyl to her son and two of his friends for several months at the time of his death.

Another Colorado Springs man, Antonio Espinosa-Tovar, was convicted by a jury of child abuse for leaving counterfeit pills made with fentanyl in reach of his girlfriend’s three-year-old. The child nearly died of fentanyl poisoning in May 2021.

Broomfield, Colorado mom Kim Osterman, who lost her 19-year-old son Max to a counterfeit pill he ordered on Snapchat in February 2021, is raising questions about why investigators, who have a wealth of information about the transaction that led to his death, have closed his case.

In the Pacific West

Joshua Breslow received a 15-year state prison sentence for providing the counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl that killed La Jolla, California resident Sally Manchester Ricchuiti in September 2020.

A Paso Robles, California man was indicted in federal court today for allegedly providing fake Percocet pills to 19-year-old Emilio Velci, who died of fentanyl poisoning after taking a single pill in March 2020.

An Oakland, California woman was charged with advertising drugs online after the mother of a 21-year-old counterfeit pill victim alleged that her Instagram account was the source of his drugs.

Instagram posts promoting drugs in the Oakland case. (Image: San Jose Mercury News)

International News

Three men in Newcastle, England were sentenced to a cumulative 19 years in prison after  pleading guilty to running an international drug ring. Officers found their pill presses, MDMA, and more than 40,000 other tablets when they searched two Newcastle properties in 2021.