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Guilty Pleas Entered on FDA Case Involving Illegal Drug Trafficking
FDA today announced that guilty pleas had been entered by two persons charged with operating a drug ring that illegally distributed drugs – including controlled substances – without requiring prescriptions. Vineet K. Chhabra, also known as Vincent K. Chhabra, age 33, of Golden Beach, Florida, and Sabina S. Faruqui, also known as Sabina K. Chhabra, age 30, of Weston, Florida, pled guilty today before the Honorable Leonie M. Brinkema, United States District Judge, to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. According to the terms of the plea agreement, Vincent Chhabra faces a sentence of 33 months incarceration when sentenced on December 3, 2004. Sabina Faruqui, his sister, was sentenced to 12 months probation after entering her plea.
Two corporations affiliated with Vincent Chhabra’s business also pled guilty to conspiracy to launder money. Mr. Chhabra serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chhabra Group, LLC, and as manager of VKC Consulting, LLC. All these defendants agreed to forfeit all proceeds of their illegal activity.
“This successful investigation and prosecution shows that FDA and the Department of Justice will aggressively pursue anyone who attempts to undermine the important safeguards that have been established to protect patient safety,” said Dr. Lester M. Crawford, Acting FDA Commissioner. “Prescription drugs, particularly controlled substances, can only be used safely and effectively when administered under the careful supervision of a patient’s physician.”
Paul J. McNulty, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Peter Keisler, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, Department of Justice, brought this case on behalf of FDA. Prosecuting this case for the United States were Assistant United States Attorneys Brian D. Miller and Karen Taylor, and Linda Marks and Jill Furman from the Consumer Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. The case was brought as a result of investigations conducted by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In his guilty plea, Vincent Chhabra admitted to running a business that operated websites and toll-free numbers through which he unlawfully distributed and dispensed controlled substances. He and his conspirators illegally distributed and dispensed millions of pills, including phendimetrazine, a weight loss stimulant sold by its brand name Bontril. Other prescription drugs illegally distributed and dispensed included Viagra, Xenical, Propecia, and Celebrex.
Contrary to law, these illegal websites did not require customers to present a valid prescription before receiving the controlled substances and other drugs. Instead, customers filled out an on-line questionnaire and chose the type, quantity, and dosage they desired to purchase. The prescriptions were dispensed under the authorizations of conspirators through pharmacies owned by other conspirators. Vincent Chhabra was also a partner in the websites get-it-on.com, cybrx.com, cybrxpress.com, rxclinic.com, eprescribe.com., rxleader.com, choicerx.com, and privacyrx.com.
For a prescription to be valid, it must be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a licensed medical practitioner acting in the lawful course of their professional practice.