Eleven Indicted in Pharmaceutical Thefts
Defendants Involved in Selling and Distributing More than $75 Million Worth of Stolen Pharmaceuticals and Other Goods
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Office, James K. Loftus, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), and Captain Mary Lathrop, Southern Region Commander, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), Bureau of Criminal Investigations, announce the indictment of eleven South Florida residents for their participation in the sale and distribution of stolen pharmaceuticals and other goods.
This prosecution, dubbed Operation Southern Hospitality, targeted individuals involved in the sale and distribution of goods stolen from warehouses and tractor-trailers across the United States. Charged in the eighteen count indictment are Amaury Villa, 37, of Miami, Roberto Garcia-Amador, 46, of Miami, Ernesto Romero Vidal, 46, of Hallandale, Abel Mesa Samper, 39, of Miami, Michael Rangel, 38, of Hialeah, Suhong Wu, 42, of Miami, Geovanni Gonzalez, 40, of Hialeah, Pedro L. Rangel, 27, of Miami, Carlos Alberto Valdes, 43, of Hialeah Gardens, Yanni A. Sanchez, 39, of Hialeah, and Leonardo Manuel Guerra, 43, of Clewiston. All are in custody and will appear in federal court in Fort Lauderdale today and tomorrow.
In March 2010, an Eli Lilly warehouse in Connecticut was the target of what has been described as the largest pharmaceutical theft in the country. More than $75 million worth of medications were stolen. The indictment charges three defendants (Villa, Garcia-Amador and Wu) with conspiring to sell and the sale of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications stolen from the Eli Lilly warehouse in Connecticut. Villa is also charged with possession of approximately 4654 boxes of medications, including Gemzar, an intravenous drug used for the treatment of cancer, stolen from the warehouse during the theft.
In addition, in a separate case announced today in the District of Connecticut, defendants Amaury Villa, and his brother Amed Villa, 46, were charged with conspiracy and theft offenses related to the March 2010 Eli Lilly burglary. The federal indictment in Connecticut indictment was unsealed earlier today (Thursday).
In addition, the United States Attorney for the Central District of Illinois today announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Amed Villa with the theft of more than 3,500 cases of cigarettes valued at more than $8 million from a warehouse in Tazewell County, Ill., on Jan. 24, 2010.
The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office also filed three separate criminal complaints charging 12 individuals for their respective roles in a conspiracy to steal and sell millions of dollars worth of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and other products. Federal agents arrested 11 of the defendants in Florida and one in Nebraska this morning. The New Jersey case and arrests arose from an investigation initiated by the FBI in Newark, N.J., into the illegal trafficking of pharmaceuticals and other stolen goods. Four of the New Jersey defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances later today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert L. Dubé in Miami federal court.
In addition to the pharmaceuticals stolen from the Eli Lilly warehouse in March 2010, the Miami indictment also charges defendants Ernesto Romero Vidal and Roberto Garcia-Amador in connection with the sale of pharmaceuticals from three other thefts: (1) a cargo of Alprazolam, an anti-anxiety medication and Schedule IV controlled substance, stolen from a tractor-trailer at a truck stop in Pennsylvania; (2) a cargo of Clinda Reach, a prescription acne medication, stolen from a tractor-trailer at a truck stop in Ohio; and (3) other pharmaceutical products, including medications to treat diabetes and epilepsy, stolen from a GlaxoSmithKline warehouse in Virginia. These defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, distributing a controlled substance, conspiracy to sell the stolen medications, and the sale of the medications. Defendant Mesa is also charged with conspiring with Vidal and Garcia-Amador to sell the medications stolen from the GlaxoSmithKline warehouse.
In addition, defendants Michael Rangel and Gonzalez are charged with two counts of selling Remicade, a prescription injectible medication used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis and other autoimmune disorders, which was stolen from a tractor trailer at a truck stop in Tennessee.
Lastly, defendants Guerra and Vidal are charged with one count of selling stolen Advair, an asthma medication, and defendants Valdes, Michael Rangel, Sanchez and Pedro Rangel are charged with possessing, concealing and disposing of approximately 200 stolen Zodiac brand inflatable boats.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “These defendants moved truckloads and pallets of stolen pharmaceuticals from other states to South Florida for storage and ultimate sale. Along the way, they transported and handled these medications without any regard whatsoever for their proper storage and care, and – worse yet – with a callous disregard for the safety and health of the ultimate consumer who might buy and use these drugs, unaware of their questionable past. But, thanks to the outstanding efforts of the agents and officers involved in this multi-state investigation, these potentially altered and unsafe medications have been removed from the streets.”
“This investigation represents the largest takedown in U.S. history involving cargo theft. The theft involves more than $100 million, including $80 million worth of pharmaceuticals,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge for FBI Miami. “Today's arrests have dealt a major blow to this Miami-based criminal organization. Cargo theft is a growing multi-billion dollar crime that significantly impacts consumers, local governments, manufacturers and shipping companies.”
“Whether through rouge pill mills or stolen pharmaceuticals, the prescription abuse problem we face in Florida is still significant,” said DEA Miami Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville. “DEA continues its commitment to ensure that legitimate medicines get into the hands of legitimate patients.”
Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge for ATF Miami stated, “This case illustrates the commitment of law enforcement to stand united against all who attempt to profiteer from crime. We will continue to labor tirelessly and cooperatively to bring criminals to justice.”
Director James K. Loftus of the Miami-Dade Police Department stated, “This case highlights what we can accomplish when Federal, State and local law enforcement in South Florida work together. Whether it is a long-term investigation, such as the one announced today, or the countless others our agencies are involved in everyday, the citizens of Miami-Dade County can count on our agencies to continue the fight against crime in our community.”
If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison on the controlled substance (Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841 and 846) and conspiracy (Title 18, United States Code, Section 371) charges and up to 10 years in prison on the sale or possession of stolen goods (Title 18, United States Code, Section 2315) charges.
Operation Southern Hospitality is a result of the ongoing efforts by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The OCDETF mission is to identify, investigate, and prosecute high level members of drug trafficking enterprises, bringing together the combined expertise and unique abilities of federal, state and local law enforcement.
Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI, DEA, ATF, Miami-Dade Police and Florida Highway Patrol, as well as the many other state and local agencies involved in these operations. In addition, Mr. Ferrer thanked the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Districts of New Jersey and Connecticut, and the Newark and New Haven FBI Field Divisions for their outstanding cooperation and assistance throughout this investigation. Mr. Ferrer also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Illinois for their cooperation in this matter. This prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank H. Tamen and Monique Botero.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.