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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Pennsylvania

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Illinois Man Operated Website For The Illegal Distribution Of Peptides, HGH

PITTSBURGH – An Illinois resident pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of mail fraud, distribution of human growth hormone and money laundering, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced today.

Ronald J. DeFranco, 54, pleaded guilty to 3 counts before United States District Judge Donetta Ambrose.

In connection with the guilty plea, DeFranco maintained a web-site for the illegal distribution of peptides - chemical compounds which require a prescription for dispensation, but which are illegitimately sought by body builders for muscle enhancement. DeFranco deceived the Internet service provider and the FDA by falsely representing on the web-site that he was selling these substances "for research purposes only . . . not for human consumption." In addition to sales of peptides, DeFranco also sold human growth hormone (HGH) without the required physician's prescriptions. During the period from May 2010, until January 2011, DeFranco paid $94,777.40 in Western Union and bank wire transfers to acquire these substances from suppliers in the People’s Republic of China.

Judge Ambrose scheduled sentencing for 10 a.m. on May 13, 2014. The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on the mail fraud count; 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the HGH distribution count; and 20 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 on the money laundering count. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Pending sentencing, the court modified defendant’s bond to include home detention with electronic monitoring.

Assistant United States Attorney Leo M. Dillon is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The prosecution arose from the combined efforts of agents with the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, IRS - Criminal Investigation and the DEA.

Updated July 14, 2015