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Archive for Thursday, April 21, 2005

Two charged in counterfeit drug scam

April 21, 2005

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— Two Florida men have been charged in an 11-count federal indictment with the manufacture, sale and illegal importation of $13 million in counterfeit pharmaceuticals, including the popular cholesterol-fighting drug Lipitor.

Pablo Manuel Fernandez, 45, of Miami Beach, and Iggy Santisteban, 50, of Miami, were charged Wednesday as part of an ongoing probe into counterfeit pharmaceuticals launched in 2003 by the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Atty. Todd Graves said.

The two are accused of conspiring to sell counterfeit or illegally imported drugs between February 2002 and April 2003 in Kansas City, Mo. Prosecutors say the men also purchased chemicals, punches and dyes to be used to make counterfeit Lipitor, Zocor, Plavix, Viagra and Bextra tablets, then shipped them to Costa Rica and Honduras to set up drug labs.

The indictment accuses the two of trying to sell the illegal tablets to drug wholesalers in the U.S., including Albers Medical Distributors Inc. in Kansas City.

The men face eight other counts of selling fake Lipitor between Nov. 15, 2002, and Feb. 24, 2003, and one count of mail fraud for distributing the illegal drugs through the United Parcel Service.

The 11th count requires Fernandez to forfeit proceeds from the alleged mail fraud, including about $10 million, Graves said.

Albers Medical, which has filed a lawsuit against four other men who sold the company illegal Lipitor, is expected to face federal charges for buying and distributing the fake and illegally imported drug.

Albers also is being sued by Pfizer Inc., which makes Lipitor.

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