City Attorney Mike Feuer and Law Enforcement Partners Disrupt Alleged Sales of Counterfeit, Misbranded and Illegal Pharmaceuticals; Among the Largest Multi-Agency Investigation of Illegal Pharmaceuticals in Nation's History

May 9, 2018

LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced a multi-jurisdictional effort to disrupt the sales of dangerous, illegal, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals and detailed the filing of three separate lawsuits as part of his office’s ongoing efforts to curb this public health and safety threat.
 

The lawsuits come in conjunction with one of the largest multi-agency law enforcement investigations in the country’s history into illegal and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

 

"My office and our law enforcement partners continue to fight to protect our residents from the health and safety hazards posed by illegal pharmaceuticals," said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. "Through these lawsuits, we seek to shut down what we allege are the unlawful activities of these suppliers, and to send a clear message to others who prey on the community that they’ll be next."

 

The three separate lawsuits filed by the City Attorney’s Office against eight defendants at four different locations all involve the alleged unlawful sale of banned, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals by individuals who are not pharmacists. The lawsuits come in coordination with a massive law enforcement investigation task force in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Arizona by a host of agencies targeting 22 locations and resulting in the recovery of 438,000 doses of illicit pharmaceuticals including counterfeit Xanax, counterfeit Diprospan, counterfeit Viagra as well as injectables and steroids.   

 

People v. Catalina Campos, Jose Vasquez DBA Magic Blue LLC  

The lawsuit alleges that Catalina Campos and her husband Jose Vasquez used their former residence in North Hollywood to store and sell large amounts of illegal, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals. In October of 2017, the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT) received information about a large number of packages coming to the home. An intercepted package to that address allegedly contained over 3,300 tablets. On October 26, 2017, a search warrant at the home allegedly led to the recovery of over 75,165 doses of illegal, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals including: Tramadol, anti-biotics like amoxicillin, counterfeit Cialis and counterfeit Viagra. Law enforcement also recovered $124,000 in cash and found evidence of multi-state drug distribution. Defendants and their company MAGIC BLUE LLC, operate a website which allegedly sells vitamins, and over the counter remedies from Mexico and South America. Neither defendant is a pharmacist.  

 

The lawsuit alleges over 75,000 violations, including misbranded pharmaceuticals, illegal sales of pharmaceuticals without a license, and trademark infringement. The lawsuit seeks a long-term injunction restricting future business activities, civil penalties, and closure of the website. 

 

People v. Flavia Maria Rodriguez and Salvador Enriquez Velasco Sanchez   

The lawsuit alleges that Flavia Maria Rodriguez and a man believed to be her husband, Salvador Enrique Velasco Sanchez, allegedly engaged in a large-scale conspiracy to import illegal, dangerous, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals from Central America and Mexico and distribute them throughout the United States. Private investigators and law enforcement determined that Velasco repeatedly traveled to El Salvador and allegedly shipped pharmaceuticals back to his wife, Rodriguez, in Los Angeles. The pharmaceuticals allegedly were stored inside their home located in South Los Angeles. The pharmaceuticals were allegedly distributed in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Bakersfield, Houston, Reno, San Francisco and Compton. The investigation revealed that neither Rodriguez nor Velasco is licensed to sell pharmaceuticals. Investigators also determined that Rodriguez is/was an employee at a South Los Angeles business, Tienda Quetzal Nava, where dangerous, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals allegedly were sold. The allegedly illegal pharmaceuticals sold include tetracycline and counterfeit pharmaceuticals include the anti-inflammatory Diprospan.

 

The lawsuit alleges 935 violations including misbranded pharmaceuticals, Illegal sales of pharmaceuticals without a license, and trademark infringement. The lawsuit seeks a long-term injunction restricting future business activities and civil penalties.

 

People v. Cesar E. Acosta, DBA Tienda Puerto Quetzal; Iris Anabella Gonzalez, and Hugo Gonzalez Nava

The lawsuit alleges 39 violations relating to the sale of misbranded, illegal and counterfeit pharmaceuticals by three individuals at two storefront businesses. The illegal and misbranded drugs allegedly include a generic form of injectable contraceptive Perlutal, and the counterfeit includes Diprospan, an injectable anti-inflammatory.

 

The investigation into Flavia Rodriguez led investigators to a South L.A. storefront business Tienda Puerto Quetzal, and its registered owner, Defendant Cesar Acosta. Employees at the business allegedly openly sell herbal remedies, creams, ointments, stuffed animals, snacks and piñatas and allegedly covertly sell dangerous, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals, including injectable anti-inflammatories and injectable birth control, along with syringes to inject the drugs. Some employees also allegedly offer to inject the pharmaceuticals for a small fee. The business is not a registered pharmacy and employees are not pharmacists. Investigators allegedly were also told that they could purchase large quantities of pharmaceuticals on two days’ notice, if a deposit was given.

 

The investigation into the business led to the identification of a second business, Variedades Quetzal Nava. The second business allegedly sells similar illegal, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Investigators determined that the operators of Variedades Quetzal Nava are Iris Anabella Gonzalez, and her husband Hugo Gonzalez Nava. The defendants are allegedly the suppliers of the illegal pharmaceuticals to both businesses.

 

The lawsuit seeks a long-term injunction restricting future business activities of all defendants as well as civil penalties.

 

The City Attorney’s efforts against counterfeit and banned pharmaceuticals are part of an ongoing partnership with the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT), comprised by members of the Los Angeles County Health Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and the LAPD, and a licensed pharmacist. The task force investigates health care-related crimes including the manufacture, sale and distribution of illegal, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Many of these products include drugs bearing non-English labels, drugs without lot numbers, warnings or expiration dates, and drugs not in original packaging.

 

Supervising City Attorney Kevin Gilligan, of the City Attorney’s Anti-Counterfeit Enforcement Program, is handling the litigation.

 

Tips on Avoiding Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Cuidado con Productos Farmacéuticos Falsifacados

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The Office of Mike Feuer

Los Angeles City Attorney

James K. Hahn City Hall East, Suite 800

Los Angeles, CA 90012 | 213-978-8100