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News Release [printer friendly page]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: DEA Public Affairs
202-307-7977

April 20, 2005

International Internet Drug Ring Shattered
E-Traffickers Arrested: Indian/Costa Rican/Canadian Cyber Criminal Alliances Shut Down

photo - caption below
DEA Administrator Karen Tandy announces results of Operation "Cyber Chase."

photo - caption below
DEA agents make arrest in
New York portion of
Operation "Cyber Chase."

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Karen P. Tandy today announced the results of Operation “Cyber Chase”, a year-long Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation that targeted international Internet pharmaceutical traffickers operating in the United States, India, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. These e-traffickers distributed drugs world-wide using “rogue” Internet pharmacies.

Over the past 48 hours there were 20 arrests in eight U.S. cities and four foreign countries. Domestically arrests occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Ft. Lauderdale and Sarasota, Florida; Abilene and Tyler, Texas; New York, NY; Greenville, SC; and Rochester, New York. Internationally arrests occurred in San Jose, Costa Rica; New Delhi, Agra, and Bombay, India.

DEA Administrator Tandy; Scott Burns Deputy Director for State and Local Affairs, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); Brian Lampkin, Section Chief, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Financial Crimes Section; Deputy Assistant Director of Investigations of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Paul Kilcoyne; Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, Food and Drug Administration, John M. Taylor; Paul J. Trimbur, Inspector in Charge, Mail Theft, Violent Crimes and Narcotics Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspections Service (USPIS); and Commissioner Mark W. Everson, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made the announcement today.

DEA, FBI, ICE, FDA, USPIS, IRS, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Patrick L. Meehan; United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Roslynn R. Mauskopf; state and local law enforcement; and law enforcement authorities in four foreign countries participated in this investigation.

Operation “Cyber Chase” targeted major pharmaceutical drug traffickers who allegedly shipped Schedule II-V pharmaceutical controlled substances including narcotics, amphetamines, and anabolic steroids directly to buyers of all ages without the medical examination by a physician required by U.S. law.

photo - seizure

photo - seizure

These e-traffickers used more than 200 websites to illicitly distribute pharmaceutical controlled substances. Cyber Chase is part of DEA’s “On-Line Pharmacy Investigation Strategy” spearheaded by DEA’s Special Operations Division (SOD). SOD is a joint law enforcement program which is comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, IRS and ICE, as well as attorneys from the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.

DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said, “For too long the Internet has been an open medicine cabinet with cyber drug dealers illegally doling out a vast array of narcotics, amphetamines, and steroids. In this first major international enforcement action against online rogue pharmacies and their sources of supply, we’ve logged these traffickers off the Internet.”

Operation Cyber Chase began after the DEA Philadelphia Division identified a Philadelphia-based international Internet drug trafficking organization, allegedly headed by Indian nationals Brij Bhusan Bansal and Akhil Bansal. The Bansal Organization allegedly repackaged controlled substances smuggled into the United States from India and other countries and distributed them throughout the U.S. and the world.

John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy said, "Prescription drugs help millions of Americans every day. But their misuse is becoming a serious problem, abetted by drug traffickers who are using the Internet to attempt to subvert our medical prescription system. E-traffickers that target young people and those suffering from the disease of addiction are now the target of law enforcement action, while we continue to ensure proper access to needed medications. I would like to thank and applaud the agencies and offices involved in this investigation as their efforts truly make America safer."

Since July 2003, the Bansal Organization distributed approximately 2.5 million dosage units of Schedule II-V pharmaceutical controlled substances including Vicodin (hydrocodone), anabolic steroids, and amphetamines per month.

“The FBI remains committed to investigating the illegal sale of pharmaceuticals over the Internet. The FBI’s Internet Pharmaceutical Fraud Initiative is working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners to combat this crime and dismantle the responsible criminal enterprises,” said FBI Director Robert Mueller. “Illegal pharmaceuticals pose a great risk to the health and welfare of the American public. These drugs are being manufactured overseas in unregulated facilities, smuggled into the United States in an uncontrolled environment, and distributed without oversight of a licensed physician or pharmacist.”

photo - dumping drugs"This investigation dismantled a major source of illicit pharmaceuticals that posed a significant public health threat. Closing down these illegal, Internet drug pipelines is essential to protecting consumers of pharmaceuticals," said Michael J. Garcia, Assistant Secretary, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Operation Cyber Chase sends an instant message to ‘cybercriminals’ that the Internet is not their safehouse. Criminals, disguised as entrepreneurs, use the Internet to invade your home and push their poison. Whether the battle is on the street or on the Web, the outcome remains the same: Postal Inspectors will continue working with our law enforcement partners to bring offenders to justice," said Chief Postal Inspector Lee R. Heath.

"Consumers ordering prescription drugs from a website they're not familiar with put themselves in a ‘buyer beware’ situation," said John Taylor, Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, Food and Drug Administration. “The medications may be coming from unknown sources, may not be stored or labeled properly, and may not meet quality assurance standards designed to produce safe and effective products. Many of the safeguards that exist for brick and mortar pharmacies do not exist for Internet Pharmacies and the potential for harmful drug interactions is magnified."

“The combined efforts of law enforcement agencies in an investigation of this magnitude produce a formidable force against narcotics trafficking and money laundering. Individuals and businesses utilizing the Internet to sell pharmaceuticals are bound by the same laws and regulations that apply to the corner drug store,” said Nancy Jardini, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “The link between where the money comes from, who gets it, when it is received, and where it is stored or deposited, can provide evidence that a crime was committed. Finding and connecting those links is what IRS brings to this cooperative effort.”

photo - loading truckIn early April, the Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and in the Eastern District of New York issued indictments charging the following: 21 U.S.C. § 841 Illegal Distribution of Controlled Substances, 21 U.S.C. § 846 Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances, 21 U.S.C. § 848 Continuing Criminal Enterprise, 21 U.S.C. § 963 Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances, 21 U.S.C. § 331(a) Introduction of Misbranded Drugs into Interstate Commerce, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1) Promotional Money Laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2) International Money Laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1957 Transactional Money Laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 982 Criminal Forfeiture, 21 U.S.C. § 853 Criminal Forfeiture, 21 U.S.C. § 970 Criminal Forfeiture and 18 U.S.C. § 2 Aiding and Abetting

photo - boxesThis indictment also seeks forfeiture of 41 bank accounts, 26 in the U.S. and the remaining in Cyprus, India, Singapore, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, West Indies, Antigua, and Ireland. Illegal financial transactions listed in the indictment total more than $6 million with restitution sought for that amount.

During January 2005, DEA launched a toll-free international hotline—1-877-RxAbuse for the public to anonymously report the illegal sale and abuse of prescription drugs. DEA has received hundreds of tips already, including those about suspicious Internet pharmacies, and this information is assisting DEA to bring drug dealers to justice.

The following foreign and domestic agencies participated in Operation Cyber Chase:

Domestic

LOCATION ENTITY
Philadelphia Drug Enforcement Administration
Internal Revenue Service
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Healthcare Fraud
Food and Drug Administration
United States Postal Service
Chester City Police Department
Delaware County CID
New York DEA
Rochester – DEA
Food and Drug Administration
Immigration and Customs
Postal Inspectors
New York Police Department
Long Island DEA

Special Operations Division

Department of Justice

Pharmaceutical and Chemical Coordination Unit
Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section

Foreign

LOCATION ENTITY
Australia DEA - Canberra
Australian Federal Police
India DEA - New Delhi
Narcotics Control Bureau
Costa Rica DEA

Canada

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

***B-Roll footage available***
***Spanish-speaking DEA representatives available for interviews***

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