Florida man tied to cargo thefts ordered to forfeit $55M

A Florida man who accumulated $55 million reselling drugs he obtained from cargo thieves has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, the latest action in an FDA effort to curb pharmaceutical cargo theft.

In June, William D. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to conspiring with Altec Medical, a South Carolina-based drug wholesaler, to sell drugs that Rodriguez knew had been stolen or sometimes bought from people off the street, according to the FDA. Two companies Rodriguez controlled sold the drugs to Altec. Fake drug pedigrees were ginned up to hide the real source of the drugs and then the wholesaler and Rodriguez worked together to get the drugs back into the lawful channels and cover up the paper trail. 

Altec last month pleaded guilty to the diversion scheme, was fined $2 million, and ordered to forfeit $1 million. Rodriguez also pleaded guilty to money laundering, and was ordered to forfeit $55 million he made on the deals. His co-conspirator, Eduardo Torres, in April pleaded guilty to helping with the fake pedigrees. 

In another case with ties to south Florida, federal authorities in May recovered most of the drugs that had been taken two years earlier when burglars pulled off a daring burglary of an Eli Lilly ($LLY) warehouse in Connecticut. They had loaded more than $70 million worth of drugs onto trucks with a loader and drove away in the middle of the night. Authorities arrested 23 suspects tied to that heist and several other thefts around the country.

Federal authorities point out that this kind of criminal enterprise puts consumers at risk because when drugs leave the legitimate supply chain there is no way of knowing if they have been safely stored, or even if they are real medications. 

The U.S. has seen a dramatic decrease in both the number and value of pharmaceutical cargo theft in the last couple of years, in large part due to efforts by the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition. The coalition has drilled protection standards into the industry so that many companies now use two-driver rigs, sophisticated tracking and other techniques that make trucks and warehouses much harder targets for criminals.

- here's the FDA press release

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