March 31, 2010
DISTRIBUTOR OF COUNTERFEIT PHARMACEUTICALS DRUGS SENTENCED TO PRISON TERM
(HOUSTON) - Richard Fletcher, 57, of Dallas, Texas, has been sentenced to prison for conspiring to distribute counterfeit pharmaceuticals and trafficking in pharmaceuticals bearing false labeling and counterfeit trademarks, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
United States District Judge Lee Rosenthal sentenced Fletcher to 12 months and one day in federal prison for each of the two counts of conviction which are to be served concurrently. Additionally, the court ordered Fletcher to serve a three-year-term of supervised release during which he must pay $50,631 in restitution to the pharmaceutical companies. Fletcher previously pleaded guilty to the federal charges in March 2009.
The prosecution of Fletcher was the result of a joint undercover investigation conducted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Food and Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigations initiated in October 2007. The investigation ultimately established that Fletcher used the Internet to obtain and distribute counterfeit Viagra, Cialis and Levitra pharmaceutical drugs. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra are prescription drugs that are FDA approved and used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction and are registered trademarks on the principal register in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.. Viagra is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. Cialis is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Eli Lilly, while Levitra is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Bayer Corporation.
Via an Internet site, Fletcher offered Viagra tablets for $1.00 each, Cialis tablets for $1.20 each and Levitra tablets for $1.40 each, while the retail cost for these drugs is $11.00, $11.75 and $13.00, respectively. In response to inquiries from undercover agents regarding the quality of the tablets, Fletcher responded that the pills looked just like the original with imprint on the pill and branded packaging. ICE agents, working in an undercover capacity, purchased approximately 2,000 Viagra tablets and approximately 500 Cialis tablets from Fletcher over the Internet on Feb. 11, 2008, May 15, 2008 and June 18, 2008. Packaging containing the pharmaceuticals indicated the pharmaceuticals were exported from China and also contained the Dallas address for Fletcher. The pharmaceuticals were later analyzed by the trademark holders and the FDA Forensic Chemistry Center and determined to be counterfeit.
Agents also executed a search warrant on Fletcher’s Internet site and confirmed Fletcher obtained counterfeit pharmaceuticals from China and engaged in discussions with Chinese individuals regarding techniques to evade detection and seizure by law enforcement officials. Fletcher also used alternate shipping routes such as Canada and Mexico.
During the investigation, agents received information from Customs and Border Protection that a package addressed to Fletcher at his Dallas address containing 960 tablets of counterfeit Viagra tablets had been discovered and seized at a mail facility in San Francisco, Calif. The counterfeit Viagra and Cialis tablets obtained as a result of the investigation are valued at more than $46,000.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Rosenthal admonished Fletcher for putting the public at risk by distributing counterfeit pharmaceuticals that were potentially harmful.
Fletcher has been permitted to remain free on bond pending the issuance of an order to surrender to a Bureau of Prison’s facility to be designated in the near future.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Samuel Louis.
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