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April 27, 2018: Seller of Counterfeit and Unapproved Pharmaceuticals Sentenced to Prison


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Food and Drug Administration 
Office of Criminal Investigations




             U.S. Department of Justice Press Release



For Immediate Release
April 27, 2018

United States Department of Justice

Southern District of California

SAN DIEGO – Tijuana resident Alejandro Hernandez was sentenced in federal court today to 30 months in custody for conspiring to smuggle and sell counterfeit and unapproved drugs. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution of $9,750 to Eli Lilly and Co., for losses related to his sale of counterfeit products. 

During a long-term undercover investigation, agents purchased counterfeit or unapproved pharmaceuticals from Hernandez on six separate occasions – oftentimes in a Chula Vista parking lot, paying for them with cash.  The drugs were all labeled in the Spanish language, and included products such as Buscapina, Prodolina and Neo-Melubrina, which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States. Hernandez also provided counterfeit versions of several drugs, including Viagra and Cialis. 


Hernandez told undercover operatives that his boss in Mexico had other employees, including a driver who would walk or drive across the border with the pharmaceuticals.  Surveillance indicated that Hernandez stored the illegal pharmaceuticals at various self-storage units near the border.  Agents arrested Hernandez earlier this year as he made a delivery of pharmaceuticals, and executed a search warrant at one of his self-storage units. The search yielded over $250,000 of unapproved and counterfeit pharmaceuticals in the storage unit, as well as ledgers documenting years of sales. 


“This office is committed to protecting the health and safety of the citizens in our district by keeping counterfeit and unapproved prescription drugs off the market, and prosecuting individuals who seek to profit from the illegal distribution of such drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman.


“U.S. consumers rely on the FDA’s scientific review to ensure that their drugs are safe and effective,” said FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Special Agent in Charge Lisa Malinowski. “The mission that drives our investigations is protecting patients from unsafe drugs.  As there are no assurances that unapproved products from foreign sources are safe or effective, we must protect consumers from these foreign unapproved medicines. The FDA will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who violate the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act by introducing unapproved and misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.


“Homeland Security Investigations agents, our law enforcement partners, and prosecutors worked diligently to investigate Hernandez's criminal activity,” said David Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of HSI in San Diego. “Today’s sentencing shows our commitment to bring to justice those who endanger the public by illegally importing and distributing counterfeit pharmaceuticals.”


DEFENDANT                                               Criminal Case No. 18cr0380-DMS

Alejandro Hernandez                                      Age: 54                                   Tijuana, Mexico



Count 1

Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371

Maximum penalty: 5 years in custody, fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense, restitution, three years of supervised release



Homeland Security Investigations

Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations



USAO - California, Southern


Press Release Number: 


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