SC company guilty of wholesaling $55 million in stolen drugs

Federal authorities have caught up with a drug wholesaler who bought more than $55 million worth of stolen drugs, put them back into the legitimate supply chain, then falsified "drug pedigrees," to try and hide the scheme. The case is another in a series of arrests or convictions as it continues to press on cargo theft and warehouse crimes.

Altec Medical has been sentenced to pay a $2 million fine and forfeit $1 million after it was found buying the illegally obtained drugs, the FDA reports. Federal authorities say when the Easley, SC-based company bought the prescription medications from William D. Rodriguez, it knew he was fencing them from parties that obtained them illegally. Altec has also been placed on a year's probation.

The wholesaler and Rodriguez worked together to get the drugs back into the lawful channels and then cover up the paper trail. Rodriguez, who also has pleaded guilty but has yet to be sentenced, moved the drugs through companies in South Carolina that he controlled, which then sold them to Altec. Altec passed them off to legitimate drug distributors who sold them to pharmacies.

The problem is that when drugs leave the legitimate supply chain there is no way of knowing if they have been safely stored and so may pose a risk to consumers, even if they are real medications.

In May, federal authorities were able to recover 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, loading more than $70 million worth of drugs onto trucks with a loader and driving away. Authorities arrested 23 suspects tied to that heist and several others around the country.

Earlier this year, concerned about cases like this where stolen drugs eventually get into consumers' hands, the FDA rewrote the protocol for drug companies that are the victims of cargo crimes. It orders them to make a public announcement to warn consumers of what products could be affected by a cargo theft and says the agency will make the announcement itself if it is not satisfied with a company's response. 

- read the press release 

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