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Press Release

Turkish Man Pleads Guilty To Smuggling Adulterated Cancer Drugs

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

St. Louis, MO – SABAHADDIN AKMAN, the owner and manager of a Turkish drug wholesaler, pled guilty today to smuggling misbranded and adulterated cancer treatment drugs into the United States, including multiple shipments of Altuzan® (the Turkish version of Avastin®) sent from Turkey to Chesterfield, Missouri.

Akman entered his plea before United States District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig in St. Louis, MO.  He now faces a penalty range of up to twenty years in prison.  In his plea agreement, Akman agreed to pay a fine of $150,000 if imposed by the Court, plus a $150,000 forfeiture payment to the United States.  Sentencing has been set for November 18, 2014.

According to Akman’s plea agreement, Akman, through his company and employees, used shipping labels that concealed the illegal nature of the prescription drug shipments, including customs declarations falsely describing the contents as "gifts" with no or low declared monetary values.  Some cancer chemotherapy prescription drugs sent by defendant to the United States from Turkey had different lot numbers on the exterior packaging of the drugs than the lot numbers found on the actual vials of the drug inside the packages.  Additionally, Akman shipped some prescription drugs that needed constant cold temperatures to maintain their stability and effectiveness in shipping boxes without insulation or any temperature protection whatsoever. 

Further, Akman admitted in his plea agreement that his company and employees sold Altuzan® to Richard Taylor, a United Kingdom drug wholesaler.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI) previously seized Altuzan® from various physician/customers of Taylor in 2012, and ultimately determined that this Altuzan® from Taylor and Semizoglu actually contained mold and water, with no active drug ingredient in the drug vials.  FDA issued several public safety alerts about these events.  FDA-OCI’s ongoing investigation has led to a number of related prosecutions in this District, including Dr. Abid Nisar, Sandra Behe, James Newcomb, Richard Taylor, Dr. Erick Falconer, Greg Martin, Kamaldeep Sandhu and Navdeep Sandhu.

"Of all U.S. consumers, those with cancer are among the most vulnerable and most in need of proven effective treatments.  To prey on that vulnerability is to exploit the health of those individuals and of the public at large," said Philip J. Walsky, acting director, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations. "OCI commends its colleagues - international, national, state and local - for their collaborate efforts in bringing this criminal to justice."   

This case was investigated by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, with assistance from the United States Marshal’s Service, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez , the United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Johnson County, Kansas Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory, Europol, the Bonn prosecutor in Germany (Staatsanwaltschaft); the Federal Criminal Police of Germany (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA); the Dusseldorf Police, the German State Criminal Police (Landeskriminalamt, LKA), the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the U.S. Consulate General’s Overseas Criminal Investigations Branch in Istanbul, Turkey and the Drug Enforcement Administration, Istanbul Resident Office.  

Updated March 19, 2015