Two Charged In Internet Drug Case
Two Pinehurst men are among 11 people recently indicted and charged with selling prescription drugs over the Internet.
The U.S. Department of Justice also named an Atlanta-based company in the indictment. The company allegedly sold generic versions of prescription steroids, drugs such as Valium and Xanax and sexual performance drugs such as Viagra and Cialis.
The local men indicted are David Dalton Johnson, 37, and David Alan Brady, 40.
They are accused of selling unregulated drugs manufactured in Belize and marketed through "spam" e-mails as low-price Canadian drugs. The e-mails would direct customers to one of several Web sites where they could order the drugs and they would be shipped from Belize.
Moore County sheriff's deputies went with federal investigators to the homes of the two Pinehurst men on Sept. 14.
"The indictment's allegations are disturbing," U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said in a press release, "because customers thought they were getting legitimate and safe prescription drugs over the Internet from Canada at cheaper prices, when in reality they received adulterated fakes that were crudely made in an unsanitary house in Belize."
All the defendants stand to lose numerous properties and automobiles and will have to forfeit the money in several bank accounts. The Justice Department is seeking a judgment of no less than $19.8 million.
The government is calling for Brady to forfeit his home on Laurel Road in Pinehurst. It's also seeking three lots off Doubs Chapel Road.
The lead defendant is Jared Robert Wheat, 34, of Alpharetta, Ga., the owner of Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, the company that was indicted. The indictment claims that on March 21, 2002, Wheat sent an e-mail "stating that he was making fake Viagra in Belize."
Others charged are Stephen Douglas Smith, 38, of Duluth, Ga.; Thomas Holda, 43, of Duluth, Ga.; Sergio Ronaldo Oliveira, 46, of Hoschton, Ga.; Brad Neal Watkins, 38, of Birmingham, Ala.; David Watkins, 40, of Norcross, Ga.; Steven Blinder, 42, of Aberdeen, S.D.; Michelle Young, 38, of Belize; and Guillermo Pech, 28, of Belize.
All the defendants face charg-es of conspiring to import controlled substances into the United States and conspiring to violate the wire and mail fraud statute and to introduce into interstate commerce adulterated and misbranded prescription drugs.
Johnson and Brady also face other charges including mail fraud, distribution of controlled substances and introducing adulterated and misbranded new drugs.
According to the indictment, they were employed by Hi-Tech. Their tasks included marketing, sales and distribution of drugs and controlled substances, the indictment claims.
The indictment claims that Johnson sent several e-mails in October 2003 to other defendants, teaching them how to encrypt documents prior to exchanging them.
The indictment says that in November 2003, Brady told customer service employees to send an e-mail to customers using a fictitious.
Wheat faces the additional charge of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted the investigation along with help from several other agencies.
According to the Justice Department release, the defendants helped Wheat open a drug manufacturing facility in Belize in 2002. The release said the defendants are accused of using funds from Hi-Tech and Wheat's personal money to cover the costs and would fly to Belize to manufacture the drugs.
They are accused of making 24 different generic versions of drugs including steroids Oxymethelone and Stanazolol, versions of behavior-regulating drugs Ambien, Valium and Xanax, versions of sexual performance-enhancing drugs Viagra and Cialis, a version of the cholesterol pill Lipitor and the arthritis treatment Vioxx.
The Justice Department believes that the defendants ordered enough ingredients to produce millions of pills.
Internet prescription drug fraud has been an area of concentration for the DEA.
"One of the fastest-growing drug abuse concerns is prescription drugs," DEA Special Agent Sherri Strange said. "The selling and purchasing of drugs have been facilitated by the wide use of the Internet, the anonymity it provides and the ease and relative secrecy of the mail and private delivery companies.
"As our children sit down at the family computer to do their schoolwork, research projects and converse with friends, criminal organizations like the one alleged today, slither into their lives. Every one of us has received spam e-mails directing us to visit Web sites to order supposed generic prescription drugs and controlled substances. Buyers beware."
FDA Special Agent David Bourne of the criminal investigations department said that these types of drugs pose a health risk to the public. "We are committed to investigating and preventing those who use trickery and deceit to illegally and unscrupulously sell medications over the Internet at the expense of the public health," he said.
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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