LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer announced today that his office has filed criminal charges against eight individuals for allegedly importing over 100,000 foreign pharmaceuticals and selling them on street corners, in parks, in front of grocery stores, travel agencies and beauty salons, primarily to Latino customers.
"Buying foreign prescription drugs and injectable medication on the street can be a recipe for disaster," said Feuer. "That medicine you hoped would help you could harm you instead." Feuer continued, "Even as we combat the flow of illegal prescription drugs into our neighborhoods, we have a strong warning for every consumer: Don’t put your health at risk. Go to a doctor, pharmacy or a free or low-cost clinic when you need medicine."
“When you fill medications at a legitimate pharmacy, not only are you getting drugs from an approved and secure source, you are receiving expert care from a pharmacist who will check for allergies, drug interactions and will instruct you how to properly take your medication,” said Brian Wong, Pharmacist for the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT). “If cost is an issue, please call the L.A. County Information Line, 211, and they will be able to assist you in obtaining affordable healthcare.”
Gloria Garcia, 65; Teresa Cruz, 64, Martha Bueno, 62; Bryan Pineda, 28; Maria Vences-Tinoco, 50; Maria Rosa Portillo, 74; Martha Siguenza, 74; and Helen Portillo, 40, were each charged with selling prescription medications without a license. Each was allegedly selling the illegally imported drugs out of attractive candy-colored displays throughout Los Angeles. Each defendant faces up to one year in jail. Additionally, first time offenders can be fined $5,000 and second time offenders face a $10,000 maximum fine.
Investigations into the suspects for dispensing illegal and dangerous pharmaceuticals led to the seizure of over 100,000 pills, compounds, and injectable medications that could have caused serious harm or death to consumers. The drugs seized included injectable drugs—typically used to treat back pain or bone infections—which cannot be purchased over the counter, require a prescription, and should only be injected by a licensed medical provider. Also seized were antibiotics—the unsupervised use of which can increase resistance and lower effectiveness—pain medication, injectable contraception, lidocaine, and other potentially dangerous compounds. These foreign-made pharmaceuticals have not been approved for consumption by the general public in the United States. None of the defendants are licensed or trained medical providers.
These cases are being prosecuted by Deputy City Attorney Heidi Matz of the LA City Attorney’s Consumer and Workplace Protection Unit and Sasha Lazarevich of the Intellectual Property Prosecution Section. The investigations were conducted by the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force (HALT). HALT is funded by the LA County Department of Health Services (LADHS) and includes professionals from the LA County Sheriff’s Department, the CA Department of Health Care Services, and LADHS. Arraignments for all eight defendants are set for September 12, 2019, in Department 48 of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center.
Individuals should only visit licensed medical facilities and pharmacies. A list of free and low-cost medical services is here. Feuer also issued warnings in English and Spanish.
In the separate case of People v. Catalina Campos, Jose Vasquez DBA Magic Blue LLC, in a first – Feuer announced his office had seized the Magic Blue Productos’ website, whose owners are alleged to have possessed and sold over 75,000 doses of illegal, misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals including Tramadol, Amoxicillin, Cialis and Viagra. Neither Campos nor Vasquez are licensed medical providers.
The website now displays a notice stating it has been seized by the LA City Attorney’s Office pursuant to court order. Further it states that the defendants engaged in the sales of dangerous, illegal and counterfeit pharmaceuticals in person and online via the website. The notice will be posted through July, 2024.
Supervising City Attorney Kevin Gilligan, of the City Attorney’s Intellectual Property Prosecution Section, successfully prosecuted this civil enforcement action.
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