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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Missouri

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, January 23, 2015

Turkish Man Sentenced For Smuggling Adulturated And Misbranded Cancer Drugs

St. Louis, MO – SABAHADDIN AKMAN, the owner and manager of a Turkish drug wholesaler, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and fined $150,000 for smuggling misbranded and adulterated cancer treatment drugs into the United States, including multiple shipments of Altuzan® (the Turkish version of Avastin®) that he sent from Turkey to Chesterfield, Missouri.  Akman also paid a forfeiture of $150,000 before sentencing.  

According to Akman’s plea agreement, Akman’s company used shipping labels that concealed the illegal nature of the prescription drug shipments, including customs declarations falsely describing the contents as "gifts" or "documents" or "product sample" with no or low declared monetary values.  Akman’s company also ensured that large drug shipments were broken into several smaller packages to reduce the likelihood of seizures by U.S. Customs authorities and the corresponding loss of expensive drug shipments.  Akman admitted that he shipped some prescription cancer treatment drugs that required constant cold temperatures to maintain their stability and integrity to the United States with no effort or ineffective efforts to maintain temperature protection for the drug shipments.  Akman further admitted that some chemotherapy drugs he shipped to the United States had different lot numbers on the exterior packaging than the lot numbers on the drug vials inside the packages.     

Further, Akman admitted in his plea agreement that his company 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 U.S. physicians and customers of Taylor in 2012, and ultimately determined that this Altuzan® had no active drug ingredients inside the drug vials and contained mold and water instead of medicine.  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 and Greg Martin, as well as prosecutions in the Southern District of California. 

"Patients receiving cancer treatment drugs should be assured that the medications meet FDA’s standards for safety and quality, said Catherine Hermsen, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Kansas City Field Office. "OCI will continue its vigilance over the prescription drug supply chain to ensure that the drugs reaching patients comply with federal law, and that those who attempt to circumvent the agency’s oversight will be brought to justice."

This case was investigated by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, with assistance from the United States Marshal’s Service; the United States Attorney’s Office 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. 

The case was prosecuted by the Health Care Fraud Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Updated March 19, 2015