Fraud Scheme Involving Baby Formula Leads to 18-Year Federal Prison Sentences for Swindlers
Miami, Florida – A federal district judge in Miami has sentenced each of three South Florida residents to 220 months in prison after a jury found them guilty of orchestrating an elaborate fraud scheme that cheated U.S. manufacturers of infant formula, eye-care products, and other FDA-regulated items out of more than $100 million.
Between 2013 and 2018, Johnny Grobman, 48, Raoul Doekhie, 53, and Sherida Nabi, 57, secured deep price discounts for infant formula and other items by lying to the U.S. manufacturers of the products. Doekhie and Nabi (who are married) told the manufacturers that they were purchasing the products to ship overseas, to Suriname, often in connection with purported government procurement contracts they held in Suriname. In fact, the defendants did not have government procurement contracts and never intended to export the products to Suriname. Instead, Grobman and others sold the products in the United States for millions of dollars, which the three defendants later split among themselves.
The defendants hid their activity from the U.S. manufacturers of the FDA-regulated products in one of three ways. The first was to send “dummy” shipments abroad. The dummy shipments did not contain the products purchased from the manufacturers, but they did generate documentation to prove that an export occurred. The second method was to “U-turn” the products: The products were shipped abroad, generating export documentation. As soon as they arrived overseas, they were shipped back to the United States. The third method was to create fraudulent export shipping documentation showing that the products were exported when they actually never left the country.
Following a 13-day trial, on February 6, 2020, a federal jury found Grobman, Doekhie, and Nabi guilty of conspiring to commit wire fraud; wire fraud; money laundering; conspiring to obtain pre-retail medical products worth $5,000 or more by fraud or deception, theft of pre-retail medical products; and smuggling goods from the United States.
On April 25, 2022, the Court entered forfeiture money judgments for the amounts of the criminal proceeds traceable to the offenses of conviction as follows: $87,187,374.83 against Grobman and $115,699,273.61 jointly against the Defendants Doekhie and Nabi.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Justin C. Fielder, Special Agent in Charge, Miami Field Office, United States Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), announced the sentences that U.S. District Judge Roy K. Altman imposed yesterday.
“The fraud perpetrated by these defendants is nothing short of egregious,” said U.S. Attorney Gonzalez. “The 18-year prison sentences reflect the seriousness of the defendants’ crimes. Our Office will continue to vigorously prosecute those who commit these types of offenses.”
“Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder that those who fraudulently divert consumer products for profit will be held accountable for their actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Justin C. Fielder, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Miami Field Office. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who engage in fraudulent schemes involving FDA-regulated products.”
FDA-OCI investigated the case. Broward County Sherriff’s Office assisted. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shannon Shaw, Christopher Browne, and John Shipley prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Paster is handling asset forfeiture.
This case is the second large-scale prosecution by the South Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office and FDA-OCI targeting fraud schemes related to the so-called “gray market,” which involves the diversion and re-sale of certain goods that were not intended for distribution in the United States. In September 2019, the Office announced the convictions of five defendants, including Byramji Javat, a citizen of Pakistan and Chairman of the Dubai-based Uniworld Group, for various offenses relating to a global fraud scheme that relied upon false claims about the United States military and the Government of Afghanistan.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 18-cr-20989.