Federal Jury Convicts Distributor of Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals
|June 14, 2012|
HOUSTON – A Houston federal jury has convicted Luis Angel Garcia Torres, 41, of Patillas, Puerto Rico, has been convicted of 12 counts in relation to the trafficking of counterfeit goods, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Torres was found guilty just a short time ago by a jury sitting in Houston following four days of trial and five hours of deliberation.
The jury convicted Torres of one felony count of conspiring to traffic in counterfeit goods, causing the introduction of misbranded prescription drugs into interstate commerce and causing the introduction of counterfeit prescription drugs into interstate commerce. He was also convicted of six felony counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods as well as three misdemeanor counts of causing the introduction into interstate commerce of drugs that are misbranded and two misdemeanor counts of trademark counterfeiting.
Torres used the Internet to obtain and distribute counterfeit Viagra and Cialis pharmaceutical drugs, which are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription drugs used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Viagra is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, while Cialis is manufactured and distributed exclusively by Eli Lilly. Both are registered trademarks on the principal register in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
During trial, evidence established that Torres offered Viagra and Cialis tablets for sale. The retail cost at the time for Viagra and Cialis ranged from $15.00 to approximately $20.00, but evidence established he was offering them for sale for just $2.00 each. Evidence also established he was purchasing the tablets for $.45 each.
Testimony further established that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents, working in an undercover capacity, purchased approximately 3600 Viagra and Cialis tablets from Torres via the Internet from Jan. 25, 2010, through Aug. 16, 2010. Evidence indicated the pharmaceuticals were exported from China and shipped from a Puerto Rico address used by Torres to undercover agents in Houston. The pharmaceuticals were later analyzed by the trademark holders and the FDA Forensic Chemistry Center and determined to be counterfeit. Agents also obtained a search warrant for the email address used by Torres and found proof he had obtained counterfeit pharmaceuticals from China and discussed techniques to evade detection and seizure by law enforcement officials with individuals residing in China.
Torres faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, without parole, and a $2 million fine at his sentencing hearing, set for Aug. 30, 2012. United States District Judge Keith Ellison, who presided over the trial, has permitted Torres to remain free on bond pending that hearing.
The charges brought against Torres were the result of a joint investigation which began in November 2009 by HSI and the FDA-Office of Criminal Investigations. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Leuchtmann and Assistant United States Attorney Samuel Louis.