Three Indicted for Conspiracy to Illegally Distribute Almost $8 Million in Prescription Diet Drugs
Internet and Toll Free Numbers Allegedly Used to Order Over 2 Million Doses
Greenbelt, Maryland - A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Susana Mendez, age 49, Jose Riopedre, age 50, both of Miami, Florida, and Derrick Truby, age 45, of Catonsville, Maryland, with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. Mendez and Riopedre are also charged with conspiracy to engage in money laundering and maintaining a premises involved in the illegal distribution of drugs. The indictment was returned yesterday.
The three-count indictment charges that from at least March 2005 until December 2006, the defendants conspired to distribute over 2 million doses of Phentermine and over 118,000 doses of Phendimetrazine Tartrate, drugs generally used for weight loss, outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.
According to the indictment Mendez and Riopedre operated several internet pharmacy websites, which permitted customers to order controlled substances after providing their credit card information and completing a brief on-line questionnaire. Customers were also allowed to order controlled substances by telephone through toll-free telephone numbers after speaking with a customer service representative who completed the order form based on information provided by the customer. Customers were not required to submit a valid form of identification or a valid prescription prior to ordering either on-line or over the phone.
The indictment alleges that the completed on-line questionnaires were sent over the internet to a group of co-conspirator doctors who purportedly reviewed the questionnaire and then electronically “authorized” a prescription for the controlled substances requested by the customers. Those on-line prescriptions were electronically transmitted to a computer database and participating “brick and mortar” pharmacies would access the database and fill the orders, which were then shipped to the customer by private commercial carriers. Mendez and Riopedre allegedly operated Waterview Pharmacy, one of the brick and mortar pharmacies that filled the on-line prescriptions. Waterview, which was located on Cherry Lane in Laurel, Maryland, closed on October 28, 2005
Derrick Truby was hired as the registered pharmacist for a participating brick and mortar pharmacy operated by other co-conspirators, and from January to March 2006 Truby allowed the pharmacy to fill thousands of internet prescriptions for controlled substances when he was not on the pharmacy premises.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of $7,800,000, from Mendez and Riopedre, including funds held in numerous bank accounts in the defendants’ individual names and in the names of medical entities such as Waterview Pharmacy, Drugs Discount Online Inc. and LEXA Medical Supplies Inc.
All the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the drug conspiracy. Mendez and Riopedre also face a maximum of 20 years in prison for the money laundering conspiracy and 20 years in prison for maintaining a drug involved premises. Truby is scheduled for an initial appearance on Friday, June 20, 2008. No court appearance is scheduled for the other defendants.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation for the investigative work performed in this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan E. Foreman and Emily Glatfelter, who are prosecuting the case.