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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 25, 2022

South Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Distributing Illegal Steroids

Cochcroft Made Over $200,000 Selling Fraudulent “Dietary Supplements”

ABINGDON, Va. – The owner of a supplement company, who manufactured and shipped unapproved drugs and illegal steroids for use by members of the body building community, pled guilty this week to a pair of federal drug charges. 

John Franklin Cochcroft, 37, of Lexington, South Carolina, waived his right to be indicted and pled guilty today to one count of introduction of a new drug into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead, and one count of illegally manufacturing and distributing anabolic steroids.  As part of the plea agreement, Cochcroft forfeited criminal proceeds of over $200,000.

“The FDA plays a crucial role in safeguarding the nation through its process of vetting drugs for efficacy and safety.  When individuals bypass that process, they jeopardize the public’s health and must be held accountable,” United States Attorney Christopher R.  Kavanaugh said today.  “My Office is committed to keeping the citizens of the Western District of Virginia safe from individuals and companies that sell potentially hazardous products laced with illegal controlled substances, and I am grateful to the FDA-OCI for their diligent work on this case.”

“Distribution of unapproved prescription drugs masquerading as dietary supplements presents risks to consumers,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge George A. Scavdis, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Metro Washington Field Office. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those whose actions threaten the public’s health.”

Cochcroft admitted that he marketed to the bodybuilding and fitness communities throughout the United States that his “dietary supplements” would increase muscle mass.  He further admitted to manufacturing and selling several products containing a type of synthetic steroid known as a Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator (“SARM”), including ostarine, which requires FDA approval before being lawfully distributed in interstate commerce.  The FDA has long cautioned against the use of SARMs, including stating in a 2017 warning letter that SARMs have been linked to life-threatening reactions like liver toxicity, heart attack, and stroke.  Cochcroft took steps to mislead and defraud the government and consumers in making, marketing, and selling these products by using multiple addresses with fictitious business names, working with Chinese suppliers to mislabel drug products as foodstuff items, and intentionally failing to seek FDA approval for the products. 

 

During its investigation, the government also seized various products containing anabolic steroids from Cochcroft’s business.  Anabolic steroids are classified as Schedule III controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and are linked to life-threatening reactions and side effects.

Cochcroft is scheduled to be sentenced on August 25, 2022 and faces a maximum penalty of thirteen years in prison.  Senior United States District Court Judge James P.  Jones will impose sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ramseyer and Trial Attorney Speare Hodges of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch prosecuted the case, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina provided valuable assistance.

Topic(s): 
Consumer Protection
Updated May 25, 2022