Closter, New Jersey Couple Pleads Guilty to Selling Counterfeit Prescription Drugs Manufactured in India
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 16, 2011|
CAMDEN, NJ—A husband and wife from Closter, N.J., admitted today to selling counterfeit prescription drugs manufactured in India to customers in the United States, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Nita Patel, 47, and her husband, Harshad Patel, 53, an Indian national, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joseph E. Irenas to one count of unlicensed distribution of pharmaceuticals. A third individual, Moloy Ghosh, 31, of India, pleaded guilty before Judge Irenas on December 15, 2010, and was sentenced by Judge Irenas on March 22, 2011, to eight months in prison. Nita Patel, Harshad Patel, and Ghosh were all previously arrested and charged by complaint on April 2, 2010.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in Camden federal court:
Nita Patel offered “generic” forms of patented pharmaceutical products for sale over the Internet, the source of which was an Indian company. When contacted by an undercover law enforcement officer, Nita Patel provided a price list of products offering for sale “Generic Viagra,” “Generic Cialis,” and “Generic Levitra,” each of which is a patent-protected erectile dysfunction drug manufactured in the Untied States.
Over the course of several months, Nita Patel and her husband negotiated with the undercover officer for the sale of more than 300,000 tablets of counterfeit drugs, including the erectile dysfunction drugs, as well as counterfeit versions of Abilify (a drug used for the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), Lexapro (a drug used for the treatment of depression), and Plavix (a drug used as an anti-coagulant). All of the counterfeit drugs were shipped from Ghosh’s business in India, where Ghosh lived and worked before traveling to the United States on a business visa on April 2, 2010—the day before he was arrested. Ghosh and Nita Patel used fictitious names on Customs Declaration forms in order to avoid detection.
Had the drugs the defendants sold to the undercover law enforcement officer been authentic, they would have had a wholesale acquisition cost of more than $2.5 million. The tablets, which in some cases were designed to mimic the appearance of the legitimate drugs, were not tested or approved by the FDA for distribution in the United States, and had labels that did not contain required safety warnings.
Under federal law, it is illegal to distribute wholesale quantities of pharmaceuticals without a license to do so. Neither the Patels nor Ghosh had such a license in the State of New Jersey.
The charge to which Nita and Harshad Patel pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is currently scheduled for August 23, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark, with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacob T. Elberg of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit and Amy Luria of the Office’s General Crimes Unit.
Nita Patel: Marc Leibman Esq., Fort Lee, N.J.
Harshad Patel: Peter Willis Esq., Jersey City, N.J.