FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASECIV
MONDAY, AUGUST 7, 2000(202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
INDICTMENT IN INTERNET SALE
OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Four individuals and a pharmaceutical supply firm have been charged in connection with illegally offering prescription drugs over the Internet to consumers, the Justice Department and the United States Food and Drug Administration announced today. The indictment alleges conspiracy, mail fraud, violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Anton F. Pusztai, Anita Yates, Dr. Roger D. Eiland, all of Clanton, Alabama; Yvan M. Degomme of Miami, Florida; and All International Co., of Miami were named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 27. Yates, who recently returned from Australia, was arrested today. The indictment, which alleges that the conspiracy began as early as October 1998 and continued to the date of indictment, charges Pusztai, Yates and Eiland with conspiracy to violate FDCA in connection with the operation of a website called Norfolk Men's Clinic.
"Internet sites that claim to provide the services of a doctor when a prescription is issued on the basis of answers to questions on a form can be scams like the one charged here," Assistant Attorney General David W. Ogden said. "People who need a prescription should consult a physician, not a website."
The indictment charges that the purpose of the conspiracy was to sell prescription drugs, including Viagra, Xenical, Celebrex, Propecia, and Claritin-D, to consumers who did not have valid prescriptions written by a licensed medical practitioner, and to collect fees for non-existent medical consultations. The defendants had customers in the United States and worldwide, including Macau, Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Argentina and Spain.
According to the indictment, the website indicated that a physician would review the questionnaire before the drugs could be shipped, with consumers being charged a fee for a medical consultation. However, no such medical review or consultation took place. Instead, defendants Pusztai and Yates created phony prescriptions on a computer that bore the name of a foreign doctor.
From December 1998 to August 1999, Eiland, an Alabama doctor, rewrote the phony foreign prescriptions on Alabama prescription forms without any contact with the consumers who ordered the drugs. The prescriptions were then filled by a licensed pharmacy in Alabama.
In addition to the conspiracy allegations, Pusztai and Yates are charged with a mail fraud scheme in connection with the operation of the Internet pharmacy. The conspiracy and mail fraud charges allege that the defendants repackaged prescription drugs and shipped them to consumers, sometimes in packages labeled as "letters and cards" or "herbal products." Pusztai, Yates and Eiland also are charged with dispensing prescription drugs without valid prescriptions in violation of the FDCA. Pusztai and Yates are also charged with operating an unregistered drug facility, where they repackaged drugs. The places where the repacking took place were not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as required by law. According to the indictment, for a period of time in 1999, Pusztai and Yates obtained their prescription drugs from All International, a wholesale pharmaceutical supplier. The indictment charges Pusztai, Yates, Yvan Degomme, the president of All International Co., and the pharmaceutical firm with violations of the FDCA by engaging in the unlawful wholesale distribution of prescription drugs.
Eiland has been charged with obstruction of justice for making misrepresentations to FDA concerning the number of prescriptions he rewrote, the amount of money he received and his efforts to verify the existence of a foreign physician in whose name prescriptions were generated by computer. Degomme has been charged with obstruction of justice for making misrepresentations to FDA during the investigation concerning the number and destination of wholesale shipments of prescription drugs that he sold to Norfolk Men's Clinic.
The indictment also charges Pusztai and Yates with a money laundering conspiracy alleging that they used the proceeds of their mail fraud scheme to promote and carry on their unlawful activity. The indictment seeks forfeiture of the funds involved in this conspiracy.
"If a person wants to use the Internet to fill a prescription, there are legal sites consumers can use that require the consumer to provide a valid prescription," said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, Redding Pitt. "That sort of practice is efficient and lawful."
Jane E. Henney, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs, said: "All drug products can have powerful side effects, and patients who obtain and use prescription drugs without consulting a qualified health care professional are putting themselves at risk."
Henney added, "The investigation of this case and the resulting charges demonstrate FDA's commitment and determination to protect Americans from unscrupulous operators of websites that illegally prescribe, promote, and sell prescription drugs. FDA's own website http://www.fda.gov/ provides useful tips for consumers who wish to take advantage of the world wide web for their prescription drug purchases."
The investigation of the case was handled by Special Agents of FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations and detectives from the Chilton County, Alabama, Sheriff's Office. These agencies have been assisted by the Hancock Brook Weirton Drug Task Force, Weirton, West Virginia, the Alabama Board of Pharmacy and Alabama Board of Medical Examiners. The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Alabama and the Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation.
It should be remembered that an indictment is not evidence of criminal activity, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven otherwise.