Seven Charged in Interstate Theft and Fencing Ring of Over-the-Counter Drugs
|July 19, 2011|
HOUSTON - A sealed indictment charging several Houston area residents for their alleged involvement in an interstate over-the-counter (OTC) drug theft and fencing ring as well as structuring and money laundering was unsealed today following the arrest of the seven charged, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today along with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) acting Special Agent in ChargeJohn Connolly.
The 29-count indictment, returned on July 13, 2011, charges seven defendants with conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise in interstate commerce, structuring monetary transactions to evade reporting requirements, money laundering and substantive counts of transporting stolen goods and structuring as well as seeks to forfeit the interest of the defendants in the illicitly obtained proceeds. Those charged include the alleged “fence,” Mohammad Zainaldin, the owner of Quick Gas and Lube on Westheimer Road in Houston, his girlfriend, Innessa Stafeyeva, who allegedly worked at the warehouse where the stolen OTC merchandise was stored along with two allegedly high level and three additional “boosters” - persons who steal the goods ultimately delivered to the fence for re-sale. Zainladin, 33, was born in the Palestinian territory and his girlfriend, Stafeyeva, 23, is a citizen of Kazakhstan. Carlos Reyes Roque 40, and Marcos Ascencio Perdomo, 35, both alleged high level “boosters,” and Irma Hernandez, 34, Ana Ramos, 30, and Claudia Flores, 35, are all citizens of Honduras.
The indictment was unsealed today following the arrest of Zainladin, Stafeyeva, Ramos and Flores. Zainladin and Flores were arrested at their respective residences, while Stafeyeva and Ramos were taken into custody at Zainladin’s warehouse on Westpark Drive and HSI offices in Houston, respectively. These four are expected to make their initial appearance tomorrow before a U.S. Magistrate Judge at which time the government expects to request the defendants remain in federal custody without bond pending trial. Reyes-Roque and Perdomo are presently in federal custody on unrelated criminal charges and are expected to appear in federal court for initial appearances on these charges in the near future. Hernandez is today being transferred from Department of Homeland Security administrative custody into federal custody to face these charges and may make her initial appearance in federal court as early as tomorrow.
The indictment accuses all seven defendants of conspiring together to steal OTC medicine from retail pharmacies and other stores both in Texas and in other states. The indictment alleges that thieves referred to as “boosters,” allegedly used aluminum foil lined bags to steal the OTC from pharmacies and retail stores. The “boosters” would ship the OTC to Zainladin during out of state trips via FedEx or UPS to avoid detection by law enforcement during routine traffic stops. According to allegations in the indictment, Zainladin was the “fence” for the stolen merchandise and the leader of the organization. Once Zainladin received the stolen OTC he would pay the boosters cash payments at his gas station. Zainladin would use bank accounts to mask his illegal activity and would withdraw $10,000 and below, allegedly avoiding bank reporting requirements, to pay his boosters.
Conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise in interstate commerce and to structure carries a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction. Conspiracy to launder proceeds of greater than $10,000 from the alleged interstate transportation of stolen property carries a maximum punishment of 10 years and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction. Structuring financial transactions to avoid currency reporting requirements carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction. Each count of transporting stolen goods and structuring carries a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction.
The charges are the result of an 12-month investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and the Houston Police Department – Major Offenders Unit with the substantial assistance and cooperation of CVS and Walgreens loss prevention divisions.