Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations
May 20, 2011: New York Man Pleads Guilty to Conspiring to Illegally Sell More than $2 Million in Prescription Drugs
NEWARK, N.J. – A New York man admitted today to his role in a conspiracy to illegally sell more than $2 million worth of prescription drugs, most of which are used for the treatment of HIV, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Jose Batista, 24, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to an Information charging him with one count of conspiring to engage in the unlicensed wholesale distribution of pharmaceuticals. Two co-conspirators – Edison Rosario, 25, of Fairview and Rudy Manuel Gonzalez, 38, of Cliffside Park, N.J. – pleaded guilty before Judge Wigenton on February 15, 2011, and March 7, 2011, respectively.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in Newark federal court:
On March 4, 2010, Batista was discovered along with other individuals – including Rosario and Gonzalez – in a basement apartment Rosario leased in Fairview. A law enforcement officer knocked on the door of the apartment shortly before 10 p.m. as he investigated a 911 call from another tenant of the building regarding a noxious odor emanating from Rosario’s apartment. Thousands of bottles of prescription medication were found in the apartment. Batista and the others were discovered using lighter fluid – the source of the odor – to remove labels from the bottles.
All of the windows to the apartment either were covered with plastic bags or taped window shades to hinder any view from outside. The apartment was furnished primarily with folding tables and folding chairs. Numerous bags and suitcases filled with prescription medication were found throughout the apartment. An open closet held floor-to-ceiling bags of the medication.
The majority of prescription bottles found in the apartment contained a variety of medications used to treat HIV – in particular, Atripla, Combivir, Isentress, Kaletra, Prezista, Reyataz, and Truvada. In all, the medication found in the apartment had a Wholesale Acquisition Cost of more than $2 million.
Batista admitted that the prescriptions were to be distributed in interstate commerce once the labels were removed and the bottles were clean. None of the defendants had a license to distribute wholesale quantities of pharmaceuticals, as required by federal law.
All three defendants were originally charged in a federal Complaint on September 22, 2010. The conspiracy charge to which Batista, Gonzalez, and Rosario pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Rosario and Gonzalez are remanded to custody pending sentencing, scheduled for May 23, 2011, and June 13, 2011, respectively. Batista, who has been released on $100,000 bail pending sentencing, is scheduled to be sentenced on September 8, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark Dragonetti, of the New York Field Office; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General region covering New Jersey, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Tom ODonnell; and officers with the Cliffside Park and Fairview Police Departments, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacques S. Pierre and Jacob T. Elberg of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark.