GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced that five defendants have been charged with conspiring to smuggle prescription drugs into the United States illegally. Brendon Gagne of Fountain, Colorado; James Funaro of Atlanta, Georgia; Jeremy Walenty of Tampa, Florida; Taylor McLaren of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and, Joshua Ford of Troy, Michigan, have been charged with conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States for distribution in the Western District of Michigan and elsewhere. Gagne and Funaro are also charged with money laundering conspiracy, and Funaro is charged alone with a single count of money laundering.
According to court documents, the defendants operated two websites – ExpressPCT and ExpressPEDS – that sold prescription drugs and some controlled substances. ExpressPEDS also sold anabolic-androgenic steroids. The indictment alleges that the drugs sold on the sites were manufactured largely, if not entirely, outside of the United States and smuggled into the country illegally for distribution to customers throughout the United States. According to the indictment, the sites did not ask customers for prescriptions even though the drugs sold require a person to be under the supervision of a licensed practitioner.
ExpressPCT accepted Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency, as well as alternative forms of payment, including payments sent via digital payment networks such as Zelle and Cash App. According to the indictment, if customers elected to pay using an alternative form of payment, rather than Bitcoin or another form of cryptocurrency, co-conspirators directed payments through accounts linked to defendant James Funaro. The indictment alleges that Funaro then converted the proceeds of the scheme into cryptocurrency before they were moved to accounts held by other co-conspirators, including foreign nationals residing overseas. Overall, investigators traced at least $12 million in proceeds to the drug smuggling scheme.
If convicted of conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States, the defendants face a statutory maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If Gagne and Funaro are separately convicted of the money laundering conspiracy charge, they face a statutory maximum of twenty years in prison and a fine of up to either $500,000 or twice the value of the funds laundered, whichever is greater.
In addition to arresting the defendants, investigators also seized several luxury vehicles that Gagne allegedly purchased using proceeds of the smuggling scheme, including a Maserati and an Audi sport coupe. Investigators also seized the websites in question.
Four of the five defendants made their initial appearances on March 10, 2022, in the districts of their arrest. Gagne will have his initial appearance in the District of Colorado on March 11, 2022. They will all then be arraigned in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan before Magistrate Judge Phillip J. Green on March 21, 2022.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge of the Western District of Michigan, Inspector in Charge Rodney Hopkins of the Detroit Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Special Agent in Charge Lynda Burdelik of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations Chicago Field Office, and Detective Lieutenant David Cope of the Michigan State Police Metropolitan Enforcement Team made the announcement.
The United States Postal Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Michigan State Police are investigating the case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie M. Carowan and Justin Presant.
An indictment is merely an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent of all charges unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. The United States has the burden of proving the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.