March 13, 2023: Medical device company had doctors implant fake parts into pain patients solely for profit, says DOJ.

This week: A company is facing charges for medical device fraud. Mexican regulators shut down pharmacies for selling fake prescription pills made with fentanyl, something that has been happening since at least 2019. International news about contaminated cough syrup, and about prosecutions involving counterfeit pills and fake pill seizures in 20 U.S. states.

National news - Medical device fraud, Mexican pharmacy news, fake pills and social media

Facebook Ad for Stimwave, 2019 

Federal prosecutors in New York filed fraud charges against the former chief executive officer of Stimwave, LLC, a Florida-based company that sells wireless nerve stimulation devices for chronic pain patients. The indictment alleges that between 2017 and 2020 Stimwave’s CEO sold a fake component to fit in small spaces of a patients’ body solely to make the product financially viable for doctors. Insurance companies, including Medicare, reimbursed the implantation of this ‘dummy’ component for between $16,000 and $18,000, costing them millions of dollars.

Last year, Stimwave signed a ​​non-prosecution agreement with the United States Attorney of the Southern District of New York and settled a lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act at a cost of $10,000,000.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office shared a report about how drug dealers use social media to sell fentanyl and other illicit substances.

According to the Los Angeles Times, pharmacies in Mexico have been selling prescription pills made with fentanyl at least since 2019, when 29-year-old Brennan Harrell was killed by pills he and a friend purchased from a pharmacy in Cabo San Lucas.

Last week, Mexican regulators shut down pharmacies in Los Cabos and La Paz that were selling expired medicine and controlled substances to tourists.

Prosecutions - fentanyl pill deaths and trafficking of counterfeit painkillers made with fentanyl

Five residents of Rock Hill, South Carolina received a cumulative 69 years in federal prison for distributing kilogram-quantities of illicit drugs from southern California, including more than a million counterfeit Roxicodone pills made of fentanyl.

Scene of the Kamara's car crash, June 2022 (Virginia State Police)

A pair of Southwest Virginia men, Paul Mason Perkins of Big Stone Gap and Austin Jeremiah Lane of Norton, were sentenced to 42 and 36 months, respectively, for distributing thousands of fentanyl pills they purchased from social media platforms between February 2021 and February 2022. A third defendant pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

Another Virginian, Alpha Amin Kamara of Alexandria, received an 11-year sentence for conspiring to distribute counterfeit pills containing fentanyl in Northern Virginia. Police found 18,000 fentanyl pills in the back of a stolen car he crashed in June 2022.

A federal jury found Hatcher Ramon Day of Phoenix, Arizona guilty of drug charges after the police in Tulsa, Oklahoma found him with more than 8,000 fentanyl pills and multiple stolen guns in September 2022.

In New York, the Manhattan District Attorney indicted five Manhattan residents who allegedly sold semiautomatic firearms and counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl.

Federal authorities are prosecuting a Fort Wayne, Indiana man for fentanyl distribution after United States Postal Service Inspectors intercepted two packages that contained a total of seven pounds of fentanyl pills on their way to him from Tempe, Arizona.

People in Hays, Kansas, Bowling Green, Kentucky, St. Hilaire, Minnesota, Flower Mound, Texas, and Spotsylvania County, Virginia were charged in cases related to fentanyl pill poisonings and deaths.

Seizures - more than a million fentanyl pills and a pill press

Law enforcement in El Monte, California seized approximately a million fentanyl pills in the body and trunk of a car during a sting operation involving three men from Sinaloa, Mexico.

Police seized 25,000 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop in Phoenix, Arizona.

Police seized 18,000 fake oxycodone pills made of fentanyl during the investigation of a Pontiac, Michigan resident who had allegedly been selling them to undercover officers.

Sheriff’s deputies in Dickinson County, Kansas found illicit drugs, including more than 9,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills suspected to contain fentanyl, after a police chase on I-70 near Abilene.

Shoshone County Sheriff's deputies seized over 6,000 fentanyl pills and a pound of methamphetamine during a traffic stop in Smelterville, Idaho.

Law enforcement seized more than one-and-a-half-pounds of fentanyl pills and six pounds of other illicit drugs while busting a drug ring working in New Milford and Danbury, Connecticut.

A million fentanyl pills were seized from a Volkswagen Jetta in El Monte, California in March 2023.

The Seward County, Nebraska Sheriff’s Office announced the seizure of 44 pounds of meth and approximately 9,000 fentanyl pills during a traffic stop on March 4.

Officers with the New York Police Department found pills, a pill press, fentanyl, ghost guns, and materials often used to make explosives during the raid of an apartment in Manhattan.

Other fentanyl pill seizures happened in Great Bend and Topeka, Kansas, Boise, IdahoHampden County, Massachusetts, Nashville, Tennessee, Odessa, TexasPrince William County, Virginia, Elma, Washington, Evanston, Wyoming and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana.

International News - poisonous cough syrup

A Reuters’ special report examined how strained resources and Indian regulators' delays hampered Gambian authorities as they tried to identify and remove contaminated cough syrup that fatally poisoned at least 70 Gambian children in 2022. Tainted cough medicines are believed to have killed 300 children in Gambia, India, Indonesia and Uzbekistan last year.

Cough syrups collected in Banjul, Gambia, October 2022