Andrew Strempler, a Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty today in the Southern District of Florida for his role in a scheme to defraud consumers purchasing pharmaceuticals online, the Justice Department announced. Strempler faces up to five years in prison, a forfeiture of $300,000, a fine and restitution.
Strempler pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with his role as owner and president of Mediplan Health Consulting Inc., a Canadian company, that also operated under the name RxNorth.com. RxNorth was an Internet, mail and telephone order pharmacy, through which Strempler and others marketed and sold prescription drugs to residents of the United States.
According to court documents, the FDA advised Strempler in a 2001 letter that his prescription drug sales would be illegal in the United States if the drugs were not FDA approved. The FDA letter explained that the FDA approves drugs based on evidence that they are safe and effective, and that the quality of drugs from foreign sources could not be assured.
Strempler and his co-conspirators unlawfully enriched themselves by selling prescription drugs to individuals in the United States, falsely representing that RxNorth was selling safe prescription drugs in compliance with regulations in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. The information further alleges that Strempler obtained the prescription drugs from various other source countries without properly ensuring the safety or authenticity of the drugs. In fact, the information alleges that some of the drugs sold by Strempler included counterfeit drugs.
Strempler caused prescription drugs from foreign countries to be shipped to a facility that Strempler operated in the Bahamas. Prescription orders made through RxNorth were then filled at the Bahamas facility, with labels on the vials and drug cartons stating they had been filled by RxNorth in Canada. Strempler then used indirect routes involving multiple countries to ship packages with prescription drugs from the Bahamas to individuals in the United States. The information states that shipments mailed from the Bahamas, containing packages addressed to individuals in the Southern District of Florida, included counterfeit prescription drugs.
“Although many Internet websites appear to offer good deals on pharmaceuticals, consumers can never be certain that drug products ordered online are the same products approved by the FDA as safe and effective,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery. “Today’s guilty plea represents an important step in our continued fight against counterfeit pharmaceuticals—particularly those trafficked over the Internet.”
“Strempler and his co-conspirators sold prescription drugs to customers in the United States falsely representing that the drugs were in compliance with regulations in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “In fact, however, Strempler sold these drugs without properly ensuring the safety or authenticity of the drugs. Indeed, some of the drugs sold by Strempler included counterfeit drugs.”
U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez presided over the change of plea hearing.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ana Maria Martinez of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, and Roger J. Gural of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch.