Federal authorities have brought down a pawn but are still looking for the king of an extensive Chinese drug counterfeiting operation who slipped through their fingers last year.
Francis Ortiz-Gonzalez, a 36-year-old Puerto Rican, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail after his conviction on charges that he distributed more than 160,000 counterfeit tablets in the U.S., mostly to California. The indictment charging Ortiz-Gonzalez says he "acted as U.S.-based distributor for a criminal enterprise, allegedly headed by Bo Jiang, 34, a Chinese national." Jiang was arrested in January 2011 in New Zealand but disappeared after posting bond. The FDA, Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Service have been investigating Jiang since 2008.
According to the indictment, Jiang advertised the counterfeit drugs over the Internet and then recruited people around the world to be distributors. Ortiz-Gonzalez signed on, bought drugs from Jiang, repackaged them and sold them. During a raid of his home in Puerto Rico, agents found more than 100,000 pills made to resemble a variety of popular prescription medications, including Pfizer's ($PFE) Viagra and Lipitor, as well as Cialis from Eli Lilly ($LLY), and Valium, Xanax.
Authorities have notched a number of convictions and arrests in recent months of people tied to Internet pharmacies as authorities around the world attempt to get a handle on the burgeoning business. What started out as a way to get consumers cheaper prices on legitimate drugs has become a major unregulated pipeline for counterfeit drugs. While erectile dysfunction drugs remain staples of the business, fakes of lifesaving drugs like cancer med Avastin have made it into the U.S. through some of these businesses, elevating concerns among medical professionals, authorities and politicians.
- here's the release
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