Baton Rouge, LA - United States Attorney Walt Green announced that last night a federal jury convicted Darlene V. Krueger, age 54, of Destrehan, Louisiana, of six federal felony offenses in connection with a scheme to sell illegal and mislabelled diet pills to victims throughout Louisiana. She was acquitted on one count. The jury’s verdicts followed a seven-day trial before U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles. The sentencing date has not yet been set.
Specifically, Krueger was convicted of three counts of distributing a controlled substance and three counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. This conduct was part of a multi-state scheme to illegally distribute diet pills containing sibutramine, a Schedule IV controlled substance, which were falsely labeled and marketed as “all natural” dietary supplements. Sibutramine was the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Meridia, a prescription weight loss drug removed from the market in 2010 following studies that showed significantly increased risk of strokes and heart attacks. Since the removal of Meridia, no drug containing sibutramine has been approved for use in humans in the United States.
The evidence at trial demonstrated that, between 2009 and 2014, Krueger engaged in a scheme to sell purportedly “all natural” dietary supplements under various names, such as “Slim Forte Slimming Capsules,” “Slim Forte Double Power Slimming Capsules,” “Slim-Vie Slimming Capsules,” and “Slim-Vie Double Power Slimming Capsules,” which she knew contained sibutramine, to customers throughout Louisiana. Even after she learned that the diet pills contained sibutramine and had potentially serious side effects, Krueger continued to distribute the diet pills and disseminate false and misleading information about the safety and efficacy of her products. Krueger made approximately $100,000 as a result of the scheme.
In a related case, on July 29, 2015, John Wesley Hoag, age 52, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles to a Bill of Information charging him with conspiring with Krueger to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute sibutramine and introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. During the guilty plea hearing, Hoag admitted to unlawfully importing the diet pills from manufacturers based in China and then distributing the diet pills to his distributors, including Krueger, and consumers.
As a result of their respective roles, Krueger and Hoag face significant incarceration, fines, restitution, forfeiture of proceeds, and supervised release following imprisonment.
U.S. Attorney Green stated: “To sell diet pills containing illegal substances is bad enough. Selling diet pills containing illegal substances and concealing that fact from unsuspecting customers by mislabelling the pill containers is intolerable. The actions taken by the defendant in this matter – which appear driven purely by greed – will consistently result in our office’s full attention and action. I commend the excellent work by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations and our prosecutors who worked hand-in-hand to bring this case to its rightful conclusion.”
“Consumers are put at serious risk when they are unknowingly exposed to undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients in products falsely labeled as natural dietary supplements,” said Robert J. West, Special Agent-in-Charge, Miami Field Office, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations. “Our office will continue to defend the public’s health by ensuring that dietary supplements are accurately labeled, and do not contain dangerous undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients.”
This matter was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, with the assistance from other FDA components, the Louisiana State Police, the Slidell, Louisiana, Police Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The matter was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Cam T. Le and Paul L. Pugliese.
Health care professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA. For more information regarding dietary supplements and to report adverse events, please visit the FDA’s website at http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/.