CONCORD, N.H. – Acting United States Attorney John J. Farley announced that two residents of New Ipswich, New Hampshire have pleaded guilty to charges that they conspired to distribute misbranded drugs that they obtained from India.
John Hayes, 53, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. His wife, Plabplueng Hayes, 50, pleaded guilty to the same charge on August 23, 2017.
According to court documents and statements in court, the defendants conspired with an unindicted co-conspirator in India, and with John Hayes’ brother (James Hayes) and sister-in-law Shannon Hayes) in North Carolina to receive shipments from India (often three to five shipments per week) that contained, in the aggregate, hundreds of thousands of pills. These pills were then sold to various customers. James Hayes and Shannon Hayes have each pleaded guilty to related charges in North Carolina.
During the course of the conspiracy, United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), seized more than 60 shipments from India addressed to John Hayes for delivery at his residence and at multiple Post Office boxes in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. Those seized shipments were found to contain more than 100,000 pills. The pills were all packaged in blister packs with no packaging that a person would recognize as retail-type packaging, and with no directions under which a layman could use a drug safely and for the purposes for which it was intended. Testing showed that thousands of the pills were prescription drugs and controlled substances. In addition, CBP sent letters to John Hayes at the Hayes residence 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 United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Postal Service and PayPal records also showed that an email account that was used by both 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 email account also was used by both defendants to manage and confirm the receipt of drugs from India, to receive and track customer orders for drugs, and to coordinate payments.
A search warrant executed at the Hayes residence in New Ipswich resulted in the seizure of more than 100,000 pills, including prescription drugs and controlled substances, as well as shipping labels and empty shipping containers, and other documents. Among these 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.
Plabplueng Hayes will be sentenced on November 28, 2017 and John Hayes will be sentenced on December 12, 2017.
“The importation and sale of misbranded drugs presents a serious threat to the community,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Farley. “Consumers who purchase such drugs cannot be confident that the products that they are using have been manufactured under appropriate and sanitary conditions. Ingesting such pills can lead to unexpected and dangerous consequences. I appreciate the hard work of the law enforcement agents in this case who identified and dismantled this dangerous operation.”
“Sending illegal prescription drugs into the U.S. marketplace puts consumers’ health at risk,” said Jeffrey J. Ebersole, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ New York Field Office. “We will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who jeopardize the public’s health.”
This case was investigated by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being 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.