You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 26, 2021

Pharmaceutical Business Owner Sentenced in Miami for Role in Prescription Medication Diversion Scheme

Miami, Florida – A Miami federal judge has sentenced a wholesale pharmaceutical business owner to 103 months imprisonment for his role in a scheme to pass off expensive and delicate prescription medications illegally procured on the streets as ones that came directly from legitimate prescription drug manufacturers.  The illegally obtained prescription medications to treat conditions like cancer, HIV, and psychiatric illness ended up in pharmacies and in the hands of unsuspecting patients.  

Mohammad Salemi, 35 years old, of Medina, Washington, operated a wholesale pharmaceutical business that obtained its supply from an underground health care fraud market.  Criminals would obtain bottles of medications from health care fraud, including from patients who had prescriptions for the medicines but sold them instead of using them.  During backstreet exchanges, many of which occurred in Miami, unmarked boxes filled with bottles of these illegally obtained medications were turned over to others who worked with Salemi.  Many of the drugs involved required storage in controlled conditions, the types of which usually do not exist during street drug exchanges.

Salemi fabricated documents to make it appear that the drugs were obtained directly from the manufacturers.  Other participants in the scheme cleaned the bottles to remove patient prescription labels and make them look like legitimate medical products.  Salemi shipped the drugs, with falsified papers, to another co-conspirator who had a pharmaceutical wholesale company in Arizona.  The co-conspirator then sold the drugs to pharmacies, which sold them to unsuspecting patients.  Salemi sold approximately $78 million worth of these medicines.  He hid his profits and kept the scheme going through an extensive series of wire transfers and the use of shell corporations.

In connection with his conduct, on October 13, 2020, Salemi pled guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to traffic in medical products with false documentation and money laundering conspiracy.  He is one of seven defendants to plead guilty to charges in the indictment.

Ariana Fajardo Orshan, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami Field Office, and Justin C. Fielder, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations’ (FDA-OCI) Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

FBI Miami and FDA investigated this case.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank Tamen and Walter Norkin are prosecuting it.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling asset forfeiture.

You may find related court documents on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov under case number 19-cr-20674. 

###

Topic(s): 
Prescription Drugs
Contact: 
Marlene Rodriguez Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney Public Affairs Officer USAFLS.News@usdoj.gov
Updated March 1, 2021