Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun G. Rao Delivers Remarks at the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society’s Distinguished Speaker Series
eBay Inc., an e-commerce company headquartered in San Jose, California, has agreed to pay $59 million and to enhance its compliance program to resolve allegations that it violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in connection with thousands of pill presses and encapsulating machines that were sold through its website.
Pill presses and encapsulating machines can be used by criminals to manufacture illegal drugs. When used with a mold, stamp, or die mimicking commonly prescribed controlled substances, pill presses are capable of producing counterfeit pills that appear indistinguishable from legitimate pharmaceutical drugs, including pills that are sometimes laced with fentanyl.
The CSA regulates certain pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment, including pill presses and encapsulating machines, by requiring identity verification of purchasers, record-keeping, and reporting to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). These requirements are designed to prevent individuals who intend to use these machines illegally from obtaining them and to ensure that the machines are traceable to the end user.
The United States alleged that eBay did not comply with these CSA requirements for thousands of pill presses and encapsulating machines that were sold through its website, including high-capacity pill presses capable of producing thousands of pills per hour. The United States’ investigation further found that hundreds of eBay’s pill press buyers also purchased counterfeit molds, stamps, or dies, allowing them to produce pills that mimicked the products of legitimate pharmaceutical companies, and that many of eBay’s pill press buyers have been successfully prosecuted in connection with trafficking illegal counterfeit pills.
“Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl are a significant contributor to the deadly overdose epidemic,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, Chair of the Justice Department's Opioid Epidemic Civil Litigation Task Force. “The Department is committed to using all available enforcement measures to ensure that companies involved in selling the equipment that makes it possible to create these dangerous pills comply with the Controlled Substances Act.”
“Americans deserve to be protected from the dangers of counterfeit prescription pills,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Civil Division will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that all those involved in the sale of counterfeit pills and the equipment used to manufacture counterfeit pills are held accountable.”
“Through its website, eBay made it easy for individuals across the country to obtain the type of dangerous machines that are often used to make counterfeit pills. Our investigation revealed that some of these machines were even sold to individuals who were later convicted of drug related crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest for the District of Vermont. “Our office is committed to holding accountable those who have contributed to the devastating fentanyl crisis we are facing in our communities. Today’s settlement is an important step to ensuring that e-commerce companies do their part by complying with regulations that are designed to protect the public.”
“eBay’s failure to comply with the Controlled Substances Act’s basic reporting and record keeping requirements for the sales of pill presses contributed to the proliferation of counterfeit pills in this country by allowing private citizens to set up pill factories in their homes and to do so without detection,” said U.S. Attorney Henry C. Leventis for the Middle District of Tennessee. “This settlement holds eBay accountable for its compliance lapses, serves as a reminder to other e-commerce companies that the Justice Department will enforce these requirements, and will help keep these items out of the hands of criminals moving forward.”
“Fentanyl — pressed into fake pills that look like real prescription medications — is killing Americans. Drug traffickers buy the tools to make fake pills, like pill presses, online,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “eBay and other e-commerce platforms must do their part to protect the public. And when they do not, DEA will hold them accountable.”
In addition to the monetary settlement, eBay also has agreed to maintain and enhance its compliance program with respect to its prohibited and restricted items policy as it pertains to sales of pill presses, counterfeit molds, stamps, and dies, and encapsulating machines.
The matter was handled by Trial Attorneys Scott B. Dahlquist and Deborah Sohn, Senior Trial Attorney Sarah Williams, Senior Counsel for Policy and Compliance Shannon Pedersen, Senior Deputy Director of Criminal Litigation A.J. Nardozzi, Director Amanda Liskamm, and Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun G. Rao of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kaitlin E. Hazard and Lauren Almquist Lively and Civil Chief Jules Torti for the District of Vermont, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Wynn Shuford, Deputy Civil Chief Ellen Bowden McIntyre, and Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Wildasin for the Middle District of Tennessee.
The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.