CONCORD – United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced that John Hayes, 53, and his wife, Plabpleung Hayes, 50, of New Ipswich were sentenced today for participating in a scheme to distribute misbranded prescription drugs that they obtained from India.
John Hayes was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison and to pay a $2,500 fine. Plabpleung Hayes was sentenced to serve a year and a day in prison. Both previously pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to distribute misbranded prescription drugs into interstate commerce. Plabpleung Hayes faces possible deportation to Thailand following the completion of her sentence.
According to court documents and statements in court, the defendants conspired with others, including John Hayes’ brother (James Hayes) and sister-in-law (Shannon Hayes) in North Carolina, to receive shipments of pills from India. During the course of the conspiracy, John and Plabpleung Hayes, along with their co-conspirators in North Carolina, received over 2.4 million prescription drugs from India, many of which were controlled substances. The defendants attempted to conceal their scheme by having the drugs shipped to numerous Post Office boxes, including boxes in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.
In addition, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized more than 60 shipments from India destined for locations controlled by John Hayes that were found to contain more than 100,000 additional pills. The pills were packaged in blister packs, with no packaging that a person would recognize as retail-type packaging, and with no directions for use. CBP sent numerous letters to John Hayes advising him that the seizures occurred because the drugs were imported contrary to federal regulations that prohibit the importation of controlled substances without the express authorization of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The defendants sent more than 5,000 packages to locations throughout the United States, including outside of New Hampshire, between February 2012 and September 2013. The defendants used an email account to manage and confirm the receipt of drugs from India, to receive and track customer orders for drugs, and to coordinate payments.
When a search warrant was executed at the Hayes residence in New Ipswich, investigators found more than 100,000 pills, including prescription drugs and controlled substances, as well as shipping labels, empty shipping containers, and other documents. Among those documents were two letters from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) informing John Hayes that Tramadol tablets shipped to him were being refused entry into the United States because the drugs appeared to be unapproved and misbranded.
The drugs distributed by the defendants were not approved by the FDA and included foreign versions of Hydrocodone, Percocet, Valium, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Ativan, Ambien, Tramadol, Soma, Sildenafil, and Tadalafil.
James Hayes, Shannon Hayes, and two additional co-conspirators were convicted of related charges in North Carolina.
“Misbranded drugs present a danger to the public,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “The millions of pills that the defendants were distributing were not approved by the FDA and had the potential to harm, rather than heal, those who took them. The defendants placed their interests in profits over patient safety. I commend the law enforcement agents whose hard work dismantled this criminal scheme.”
“The FDA's requirements are designed to ensure that American consumers receive drugs that are safe and effective. When criminals import and sell misbranded prescription drugs, they risk patients’ safety and health,” said Catherine Hermsen, Acting Director of FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. “The work that’s done by CBP, FDA and our other partner agencies at the International Mail Facilities, where international mail entering the U.S. is received and processed, provides a front line defense against illegal, illicit, unapproved, counterfeit and potentially dangerous drugs from entering the United States. We are committed to pursuing those who jeopardize the public health by importing and distributing these dangerous products.”
“The Postal Service has no interest in being the unwitting accomplice to anyone using the U.S. Mail to distribute misbranded drugs. By using the mail system for a criminal purpose, Mr. and Mrs. Hayes put our customers’ health at risk. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to preserve the integrity of the mail by investigating those who use it illegally.” said Raymond Moss, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Field Division.
“Mr. and Mrs. Hayes ran a dangerous operation, distributing unsafe drugs that endangered the public’s health. Their illicit pill mill was a family affair and now they are finally being held accountable,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Boston Division. “The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to do everything we can to curtail this illegal activity and ensure that our communities remain safe.
“This case shows how vital effective federal law enforcement cooperation is to the safety of Americans,” said Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Boston. “Through close law enforcement coordination, thousands of Americans were protected from the reckless actions of these individuals, who cared about nothing but enriching themselves at the expense of a serious life-threatening risk to the unwitting American consumer.”
This case was investigated by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Huftalen and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Hawkins, who is Senior Counsel, Office of Chief Counsel, U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
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