Food and Drug Administration
Office of Criminal Investigations
U.S. Department of Justice Press Release
For Immediate Release
March 22, 2017
United States Department of Justice
Central District of California
LOS ANGELES – A Diamond Bar man who illegally imported the active ingredients used in erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra and Cialis and repackaged the drugs for sale as herbal sexual enhancement products pleaded guilty today to federal charges.
Joseph Jinn, also known as Tzong Hwan Jinn, 60, pleaded guilty this afternoon to one count of conspiring to bring the drugs into the United States by means of false statements.
In a plea agreement filed in United States District Court, Jinn admitted being part of a scheme that imported Tadalafil, Sildenafil and Dapoxetine – the active ingredients in pharmaceutical medications such as Viagra and Cialis – with false claims to customs officials that the multi-kilogram shipments were “cooked powder and tools,” “Chinese bread baking mixture,” and other innocuous materials. U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted some of the shipments, which had a cumulative value of nearly $550,000.
But some of the illegally imported drugs entered the United States. Jinn admitted in court that he and his co-conspirators repackaged and sold the drugs as an “herbal supplement sexual enhancer.” The products were sold without the necessary prescriptions required by regulations enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which had previously warned Jinn’s company that it was engaged in illegal sales.
According to the plea agreement, the FDA “issued public warnings regarding these sexual supplements because they contain ingredients that can interact with other drugs in dangerous ways and may lower blood pressure to unsafe levels.”
“These products were falsely and dangerously marketed as herbal supplements, when in truth they were unregulated prescription medications that are harmful to some people,” said Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “The scheme began with a smuggling operation, and the conduct continued with the distribution of supplements falsely labeled as natural and safe.”
The products marketed by Jinn and his co-conspirators were sold in storefronts and over the internet.
As part of his plea agreement, Jinn agreed to forfeit to the United States approximately $105,000 that was seized from three bank accounts during the investigation.
“When it comes to purchasing medications online or in storefronts, never has the expression ‘buyer beware’ had a greater ring of truth,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Los Angeles. “Imposter drugs pose a serious threat to consumers who mistakenly assume these substances are safe. The reality is that unscrupulous providers who introduce untested products into the marketplace purely to turn a profit are putting their unwitting clients in harm’s way.”
“The FDA oversees the production and sale of prescription drugs to ensure that they are safe and effective,” said Lisa L. Malinowski, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Los Angeles Field Office. “Criminals who attempt to sell medicines outside of FDA’s oversight put the health of U.S consumers at risk. Our office will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who endanger the public’s health.”
The FDA has warned consumers about numerous over-the-counter products that claim to be “herbal,” but in fact contain hidden active ingredients.
Jinn pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Christina A. Snyder, who scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 19. When he is sentenced, Jinn will face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
The investigation in this case was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; the Los Angeles Police Department; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The case against Jinn is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Vicki Chou and Jennie L. Wang of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.