Food and Drug Administration
Office of Criminal Investigations
U.S. Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
November 7, 2012
United States Attorney
District of Columbia
Defendants Allegedly Shipped Nearly $780,000 of Drugs Into U.S.
WASHINGTON - Two Pakistani nationals have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on charges alleging that they operated Internet sites that illegally shipped pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers in the United States.
Sheikh Waseem Ul Haq, 39, and Tahir Saeed, 50, are accused of operating Internet sites that, since late 2005, illegally shipped $2 million of pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers worldwide, including nearly $780,000 in sales to U.S. purchasers.
The 48-count indictment, which was returned on Nov. 6, 2012, was announced today by Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Department of Justice's Civil Division; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office; Robert Brisolari, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Division Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Gary R. Barksdale, Inspector in Charge, Washington Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Antoinette V. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the Metro Washington Field Office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations.
The indictment was returned following a presentation of evidence by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, working in conjunction with the Department of Justice's Consumer Protection Branch. It charges the defendants with conspiracy to import controlled substance pharmaceuticals into the United States; conspiracy to distribute controlled substance pharmaceuticals; conspiracy to introduce misbranded pharmaceuticals into interstate commerce; importation and distribution of controlled substance pharmaceuticals; introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded drugs, and conspiracy to commit international money laundering. It also includes a forfeiture allegation seeking all proceeds that can be traced to the scheme.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts involving the conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances, as well as up to 20 years for the conspiracy to commit international money laundering. They face a maximum penalty of five years for conspiracy to introduce misbranded pharmaceuticals into interstate commerce, and additional time if convicted of the other charges.
According to the indictment, the defendants and others owned, operated and conducted business as Waseem Enterprises and Harry's Enterprises, wholesale pharmaceutical companies that were located in Pakistan. The businesses were used to unlawfully distribute a wide variety of controlled substances and prescription drugs through Internet sites. The defendants and others also advertised their companies on Internet sites to generate business.
Ul Haq and Saeed directed U.S. customers to submit payments via Western Union to numerous individuals in Karachi, Pakistan, in order to conceal the fact that the funds were going to Ul Haq and Saeed. As alleged in the indictment, the defendants brazenly admitted in e-mails that they paid bribes to Pakistani customs officials to facilitate shipment of the drugs out of Pakistan, and warned that U.S. customers bore the risk of interception by U.S. customs officials. The indictment alleges that the defendants packaged the drug shipments in ways which reduced the likelihood of interdiction by customs inspectors and told customers that, despite the packaging, some of the shipments might not get through.
The drugs shipped into the United States included methylphenidate (sold as Ritalin); various anabolic steroids; alprazolam (sold as Xanax); diazepam (sold as Valium), lorazepam (sold as Ativan), clonazepam (sold as Klonapin) and other controlled and non-controlled substances.
In early October 2012, a law enforcement task force investigating the case learned that the defendants would be traveling from Pakistan to northern Europe. With coordination from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, U.S. authorities lodged provisional arrest warrants for the defendants first in Germany and then in the United Kingdom.
With the assistance of Interpol and law enforcement agents in Germany and the United Kingdom, the defendants were tracked from Germany to London, where they were arrested by the London Metropolitan Police Service Fugitive Squad at a hotel near Heathrow Airport on Oct. 19, 2012. They were presented to Westminster Magistrate's Court in London and ordered held pending extradition to the United States.
"This indictment alleges an international conspiracy to sell anabolic steroids, anti-anxiety medications, and other prescription drugs over the Internet to American consumers without any doctor involved," said U.S. Attorney Machen. "These Pakistani nationals are alleged to have engaged in a scheme to ship unregulated pharmaceuticals to American consumers in exchange for money wired to their cohorts in Pakistan. The controlled substances were packaged to conceal the illegal shipments from being discovered by customs officials. Our Office, along with our law enforcement colleagues, will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who are intent on shipping unregulated and potentially dangerous drugs into the United States."
"This prosecution aims to curb the flow of dangerous drugs into the hands of United States citizens," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Delery. "The drugs allegedly sold by the defendants were not approved for distribution into the United States, were not dispensed by U.S. licensed pharmacies, and were not prescribed by any physician. Along with the FBI, FDA and our other law enforcement partners, we will continue to protect our citizens from unsafe and potentially harmful drugs."
"This complex investigation and subsequent arrests disrupted an international black market for potentially dangerous drugs entering the United States," said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. "This indictment is the direct result of the hard work of FBI Agents in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations and the London Metropolitan Police Service as well as the prosecutors working on this case."
"This investigation combined law enforcement resources from around the globe to apprehend those individuals who allegedly operated Internet sites that illegally shipped pharmaceuticals from Pakistan to citizens in the United States," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Brisolari. "Thanks to the efforts of U.S. law enforcement and our international counterparts, these individuals will now face charges in a U.S. courthouse."
"This indictment shows the commitment of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to keep its customers safe from potentially harmful products," said Inspector in Charge Barksdale. "We would also like to thank our federal partners in our continued effort to rid the U.S. Mail of illegal pharmaceuticals."
"The FDA Office of Criminal Investigations is committed to working with our international and domestic law enforcement partners in aggressively pursuing unscrupulous individuals who seek to sell adulterated and misbranded pharmaceuticals to U.S. citizens via the Internet," said Special Agent in Charge Henry.
The use of the Internet to distribute drugs illegally has emerged as a major threat to law enforcement. This prosecution represents an unusual investigation in that these defendants allegedly operated their Internet marketing scheme from within Pakistan (and not in the United States) and were able to ship drugs from Pakistan illegally and directly to U.S. citizens. These drugs however, were manufactured outside the United States and did not come from licensed or inspected facilities as required by the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act.
U.S. manufactured pharmaceutical drugs diverted to the illegal market by operators of Internet pharmacies have been a frequent target of domestic law enforcement.
The strict statutes and regulations for pharmaceuticals - allegedly bypassed in this case by the defendants' conduct -- are designed to protect consumers from adulterated, contaminated, and counterfeit drugs, and assure that medically necessary drugs are dispensed by licensed pharmacists who are filling legitimately issued prescriptions by licensed physicians.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
This investigation was sponsored and supported by the Department of Justice's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The case was investigated by the FBI's Washington Field Office; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Dominguez and Linda I. Marks, Senior Litigation Counsel for the Department of Justice's Consumer Protection Branch, who coordinated the investigation and presented the evidence to the grand jury.