A Florida man pleaded guilty today to his role in a fraud scheme involving the distribution of illegal products falsely labeled as dietary supplements.
According to court documents, Anthony ”Joey” Ventrella, 43, of Boynton Beach, joined several alleged co-conspirators in committing mail and wire fraud, as well as defrauding the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by using dishonest methods to prevent the agency from regulating products labeled as dietary supplements. Ventech, a company controlled by Ventrella, also pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy. Ventrella admitted that through a series of companies, including Ventech, he helped co-conspirators manufacture and distribute products to consumers that were labeled as legal dietary supplements. According to court filings, the products actually contained ingredients that made the products unapproved drugs and illegal to distribute. Ventrella admitted to importing raw ingredients from China using fraudulent paperwork that concealed the true contents of the shipments in an effort to hide his and his co-defendants’ activities from the FDA. As part of the plea agreement, Ventech agreed to forfeit the manufacturing equipment used during the alleged scheme.
“Dietary supplements that contain unapproved drugs can be dangerous for consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will aggressively pursue and prosecute those who fraudulently conceal for profit the true nature of the products they distribute.”
“Products mislabeled as dietary supplements can pose a serious risk to the health of U.S. consumers,” said Special Agent in Charge Justin C. Fielder of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) Miami Field Office. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who jeopardize the public health by selling violative products.”
Ventrella pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and to defraud the United States in Ft. Lauderdale before U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas of the Southern District of Florida. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 29 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The FDA OCI investigated the case.
Ventrella, Ventech and six other defendants previously were charged by indictment with conspiracy to obstruct the FDA and to commit mail and wire fraud, distribution of unapproved new drugs and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Two other defendants previously pleaded guilty, and the remaining four defendants are set for trial on Oct. 12.
Trial Attorneys Alistair Reader and Steven Gripkey, Senior Litigation Counsel David Frank and Assistant Director John W. Burke of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
The indictment charging the remaining defendants is merely an allegation, and those defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.