News and Press Releases

Canadian Citizen Sentenced in Scheme to Defraud Consumers Purchasing Pharmaceuticals Online

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2013

Former Owner of Online Pharmacy Sentenced to 48 Months in Prison

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and David W. Bourne, Special Agent in Charge, Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), Miami Field Office, announced today’s sentencing of Andrew J. Strempler, of Canada. At today’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Strempler to 48 months in prison for his role in a scheme to defraud consumers purchasing pharmaceuticals online. Strempler was also ordered to pay a forfeiture of $300,000. A hearing to determine the amount of restitution has been scheduled for February 26, 2013.

In October 2012, 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. Strempler obtained the prescription drugs from various other source countries without properly ensuring the safety or authenticity of the drugs. In fact, 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. Shipments mailed from the Bahamas, containing packages addressed to individuals in the Southern District of Florida, included counterfeit prescription drugs.

“Counterfeit prescription drugs sold through the internet pose a serious health hazard to consumers in the United States,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, I.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “These drugs can be adulterated, ineffective and unsafe. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to assisting the FDA enforce regulations to protect American consumers from these unsafe drugs.”

“Today’s sentencing should send a clear message to anyone who operates an online pharmacy that sidesteps the FDA protections and defrauds consumers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Consumers need to be aware that prescription drugs purchased online may be counterfeit, substandard, or unsafe.”

“FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, working in concert with the United States Attorney’s Office and other foreign and domestic government agencies, will protect the public health by aggressively targeting those responsible for counterfeiting prescription drugs,” said David W. Bourne, Special Agent in Charge of the FDA-OCI’s Miami Field Office. “This case highlights that even when complex criminal networks engage in such illegal activities on a global scale from a foreign-based location, without regard for risk to human life, they are still held accountable for their actions in the United States. We commend the United States Attorney’s Office in Miami and our international law enforcement partners for their tireless efforts in connection with the investigation and subsequent prosecution of this case.”

Mr. Ferrer thanked the FDA-OCI for its work in this investigation. 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, Roger J. Gural of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, and Nathan Sabel of the FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel. To learn more about safely buying medicines over the Internet, consumers should consult FDA’s BeSafeRX campaign at www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/BuyingMedicinesOvertheInternet/default.htm

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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.

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