DENVER – Junaid Qadir, age 33, of Karachi, Pakistan, appeared in U.S. District Court in Denver late last week on multiple charges of illegal importation and sale of misbranded and unapproved drugs, some of which are further alleged to have been counterfeit or controlled substances, and all of which were manufactured overseas and shipped to the United States, U.S. Attorney John Walsh, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Special Agent in Charge David Thompson, Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations’ Kansas City Field Office Special Agent in Charge Catherine Hermsen and U.S. Postal Service Inspector in Charge of the Denver Division Craig Goldberg announced.
Qadir was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on August 22, 2012. A superseding indictment was obtained on June 25, 2015. He was arrested last Spring in Germany, a country with U.S. extradition laws after he traveled there from Pakistan. Qadir fought extradition, which resulted in his incarceration in Germany until a court order was obtained mandating is extradition. He first appeared in federal court in Denver on January 25, 2016, where he was read his rights and advised of the charges pending against him. He again appeared on January 28, 2016 for arraignment, where he entered a pro-forma not guilty plea, and was ordered held in custody without bond pending a resolution of his case by a U.S. Magistrate Judge.
According to court documents, Qadir and his brother, Shehzad, who is not in custody, are principals of a family owned and operated business in Karachi, Pakistan known as JNS Impex. This company held itself out to be, among other things, a leading and long-standing exporter of branded and generic pharmaceutical drugs and surgical products. They wrongly claimed it had access to and could supply most brand name pharmaceutical products; that it was affiliated with many multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers; and that it was licensed to distribute and export over-the-counter, prescription and narcotic pharmaceutical drugs. At no time were they associated or registered with the DEA to import controlled substances into the U.S. or to distribute controlled substances in the United States
It was part of the conspiracy that Junaid Qadir, acting in concert with his brother and others known and unknown, used advertisements on internet websites on behalf of their prescription drug distribution company JNS Impex and through business-to-business internet website platforms, to solicit orders for a variety of brand name and generic pharmaceutical prescription, mostly in commercial and wholesale quantities. The defendants would take in these orders over the internet primarily from individuals and entities operating internet pharmacy websites and other types of illicit pharmacy operations who, in turn, were undertaking to sell these drugs to their retail customers without valid prescriptions from licensed medical professionals. The defendants would take in orders for bulk drug shipments directly to these pharmacy operations and for drop shipments directly to the customers of these pharmacy operations. A substantial portion of the orders taken in by the defendant were for shipment to businesses and individuals located in the United States.
The defendants would undertake to fill these drug orders to the United States businesses and residents by procuring brand name and generic drugs that they knew to be unapproved for the United States market by the FDA from suppliers whose drug manufacturing facilities were not approved by the FDA and whose packaging and patient literature for their drugs was also not approved by the FDA. As part of the conspiracy, the defendants, using a series of email addresses, would forward the drug orders to a network of drug suppliers in Pakistan, India, the United Kingdom, and China. Some would obtain stockpiles of the drugs being ordered and, from these stockpiles or from the suppliers directly, would cause the orders to be filled by shipments through the international mail to or on behalf of their customers. With respect to some of the drug shipments ultimately intended for United States recipients, the defendants would alternatively employ a network of individuals located in the United States to receive the imported drugs and re-ship them to the ultimate customers within the United States once the drugs had been safely imported.
Qadir would often cause the drugs being shipped to the United States to evade detection by United States customs and foreign customs authorities by having those drugs concealed, in loose format, in plastic vitamin bottles and plastic water bottles. They would also cause the drug shipments to evade customs detection by causing the shipments to be accompanied by customs declarations that inaccurately or misleadingly described the contents of the shipments or without customs declarations altogether. The drugs would often be shipped in mail parcels without packaging, without labels, and without patient safety leaflets or other written instructions and information.
In order to secure payment for the drug shipments, the defendants and their co-conspirators would have their United States customers send money transfers, by way of Western Union and similar money transferring services, to themselves in their own names or in the names of various individuals located in Pakistan or, alternatively, would have the customers send bank wire transfers to various bank accounts in the names of associated businesses or their own names at financial institutions located and based in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. The defendants, on occasion, would also have their domestic operatives transfer money to one another in order to satisfy obligations that the defendants and their co-conspirators had to them.
The illegal drugs imported by the defendants include counterfeit or unapproved versions of: Viagra, Lorazepam, Alprazolam, Diazepam, Zolpidem, and Phentermine.
"This case should be a reminder to everyone that buying counterfeit prescription drugs on line from overseas pharmacies is playing with fire," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. "An online buyer of such drugs has no idea what drug or substance they are actually receiving. The U.S. Attorney's Office, Homeland Security Investigations and FDA will work tirelessly -- as we did in this case -- to locate, charge and apprehend counterfeit drug traffickers in whatever corner of the world they may hide."
“There’s a misperception that counterfeiting is a victimless crime, but unfortunately it is not – counterfeit pharmaceuticals can and have led to serious injuries and death,” said David A. Thompson, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. “For that reason, and because counterfeiting often funds illegal activity, we take cases like Qadir’s very seriously and work tirelessly with our partners to investigate these crimes and bring those who commit them to justice.”
“The FDA-regulated supply chain for medicines helps protect consumers from prescription drugs that could be harmful or unsafe for them to use. When criminals provide unapproved and counterfeit prescription drugs online, they place the public’s health at risk,” said Catherine A Hermsen, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ Kansas City Field Office. “We will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to bring such criminals to justice.”
“This arrest is evidence that no matter where you are, be it in the United States or abroad, if you use the U.S. Mail to endanger the American public, we will find you,” said Craig Goldberg, Inspector-in-Charge of the Denver Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “We will continue to use our resources to protect the American public and ensure the integrity of the U.S. Mail. This case is another great example of federal law enforcement agencies partnering together to keep America safe.”
Junaid Qadir faces the following charges: Introduction and Delivery for Introduction of Unapproved New Drugs into Interstate Commerce, Introduction and Delivery for Introduction of Misbranded Drugs into Interstate Commerce, Sale of Counterfeit Drugs, Importation of Schedule IV Controlled Substances, Distribution of Scheduled IV Controlled Substances, Importation of Merchandise Contrary to Law, Conspiracy to Defraud the U.S. and Commit Offenses Against the U.S., Conspiracy to Import Schedule IV Controlled Substances and Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Schedule IV Controlled Substances. Penalties for these offenses range from not more than 3 years in federal prison per count, to not more than 20 years in federal prison per count. Each count also carries a penalty of up to a $250,000 fine.
HSI further stated that the trafficking of counterfeit goods is the second largest illicit trade activity, valued at roughly $250 billion. In fiscal year 2014, HSI, working through its National Intellectual Property Rights Center, seized more than 23,000 counterfeit items with an MSRP of $1.2 billion. Members of a public who would like to report information about suspected counterfeiters are encouraged to call ICE’s toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing this online tip form.
This case was investigated by HSI, FDA OCI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Qadir is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth M. Harmon.
The charges contained in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.