Chinese Citizen Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud and Smuggling Related to Dietary Supplement Scheme
Gao Mei Fang (a.k.a. Amy Gao), of Shanghai, China, pleaded guilty in Dallas to mail fraud and smuggling charges in connection with a scheme to sell mislabeled dietary supplements, the Department of Justice announced today.
Gao was the supply chain manager for Genabolix USA Inc. and Shanghai Yongyi Biotechnology Co. Ltd., Chinese firms that sell raw ingredients for use in dietary supplements. In pleading guilty, Gao admitted that she agreed to help sell synthetic stimulant ingredients, including the substance known as 1,4-DMAA, to a purported dietary supplement manufacturer in the United States. According to an indictment returned in October 2017, Gao and two co-defendants agreed with a confidential government informant to either mislabel the synthetic ingredients or otherwise help to hide the true nature of a proposed dietary supplement from retailers. Gao admitted that she knew major American dietary supplement retailers would refuse to carry supplements known to contain certain stimulants, such as DMAA.
Gao also admitted to making false statements to FDA’s import division regarding a shipment of synthetic stimulants entering the United States.
“Protecting Americans from fraud and ensuring the safety of the products they consume are top priorities of the Department of Justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We will pursue those who attempt to import dangerous and illegal commodities into the United States.”
Gao pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Horan of the Northern District of Texas. She faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years of imprisonment on both the mail fraud and smuggling counts. The Court set sentencing for Oct. 1.
“As evidenced by the global scope of this investigation and this plea of guilty, my office is fully committed to protecting our citizens,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who fraudulently mislead and endanger the American public.”
“U.S. consumers trust that their dietary supplements are safe and contain appropriate labeling. When unscrupulous producers add undeclared or misidentified ingredients to dietary supplements, there is no assurance that the product is safe for consumption,” said Catherine A. Hermsen, Acting Director, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations. “The FDA will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who participate in fraudulently marketing dietary supplements to the detriment of public health.”
Gao was arrested in September 2017 along with a co-defendant, Zhang Xiao Dong, while attending a dietary supplement trade show in Las Vegas. A third defendant named in the case, Hu Chang Chun, is not believed to be in the United States.
The case was investigated by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Kate Rumsey, Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas; and David Sullivan and Patrick R. Runkle, Trial Attorneys in the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch.
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndtx.