Twelve Men Charged in Connection with Multi-Million-Dollar Pharmaceutical Thefts
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 03, 2012|
NEWARK, NJ—Federal agents today arrested 11 men who allegedly stole and sold millions of dollars worth of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and other products. Twelve defendants are charged by complaint in New Jersey as part of a long-term, multi-state investigation initiated by the FBI in Newark into the illegal trafficking of pharmaceuticals and other stolen goods.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced the arrests of New Jersey’s defendants—10 arrested in Florida and another in Nebraska—as part of a coordinated national takedown, with arrests also announced today in Florida and Connecticut. A 12th defendant is still being sought. Two of those arrested on New Jersey complaints were among those charged separately in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Florida and unsealed today.
The New Jersey defendants are charged in three criminal complaints unsealed in Newark federal court today. Four are scheduled to make their initial court appearances today in Miami federal court. According to the complaints:
Six of the 12 defendants are charged in New Jersey with conspiracy to receive and sell stolen property in connection with pharmaceuticals stolen from a Bayer product distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi in March 2009, as well as a theft of a tractor trailer containing Perrigo pharmaceuticals that was stolen in Dallas in March 2010. Bayer has estimated the value of the stolen pharmaceuticals—which included Bayer aspirin, Aleve, Flintstones vitamins, and Phillips products—to have a wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) of $2.9 million, while Perrigo has estimated the WAC of their stolen pharmaceuticals at more than $315,000. Among the six defendants is Ernesto Romero-Vidal, who acted as a broker between buyers and sellers and who is named in all three New Jersey complaints as well as in the Florida indictment.
Those six defendants are:
|Ernesto Romero-Vidal*||Bemba||46||Hallandale, Fla.|
|Leonardo Guerra*||43||Clearwater, Fla.|
|Miguel Munoz||Miguelito||41||Columbus, Neb.|
|Lazaro Luis-Garcia||43||Miami, Fla.|
|Riguelme Avila (at large)||Ricky||59||Miami, Fla.|
* Also charged separately by federal authorities in Florida.
A second complaint charges Romero-Vidal and three other men with conspiracy to receive and sell stolen prescription respiratory medicine allegedly taken in the robbery of a full tractor trailer load that originated from Dey L.P. in Allen, Texas, and was destined for Sandoz Inc. in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. After the theft was reported, law enforcement recovered the tractor and trailer carrying the stolen prescription medicine in Fredericksburg, Maryland. Sandoz estimates the WAC of the stolen medicine—including DuoNeb, a prescription combination medication containing Albuterol Sulfate and Ipratropium Bromide and indicated for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease—to be $1.15 million.
The four defendants named in that complaint are:
|Ernesto Romero-Vidal*||Bemba||46||Hallandale, Fla.|
|Daniel Diaz-Paez||El Burro||37||Miami, Fla.|
|Silvio Ramirez||44||Hialeah, Fla.|
|Martin Lopez||El Negro||45||Miami, Fla.|
A third complaint charges Romero-Vidal and three other men with three counts of conspiracy to deal in stolen goods. In count one, Romero-Vidal and another defendant are charged with conspiracy to receive and sell stolen L’Oreal hair care products, including shampoo, mousse, and hair color gels. The WAC of the stolen goods is estimated at more than $330,000. Count two of the complaint charges three defendants with conspiracy to possess a stolen interstate shipment of Mylan, Inc., a prescription respiratory medicine that was being transported in a tractor trailer that was stolen in Tampa, Florida. The WAC of the stolen Mylan medicine was more than $260,000. In count three, Romero-Vidal and another defendant are charged with conspiracy to receive and sell stolen Sandoz prescription respiratory medicine, that was part of theft alleged in the second complaint, above.
The four defendants in the third complaint, and the specific counts with which they are charged, are:
|Ernesto Romero-Vidal*||1, 3||Bemba||46||Hallandale, Fla.|
|Reynaldo Tapanes||1, 2||El Gordo||45||Miami, Fla.|
|Ariel Garcia||2||39||Coral Gables, Fla.|
|Rocke R. Lopez-Batista
Four of the defendants—Soler, Lazaro Garcia, Ariel Garcia and Diaz-Paez—were scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert L. Dube in Miami federal court.
Each conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark; IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Joann S. Zuniga; and detectives of the North Bergen Police Department, under the direction of Chief William P. Galvin Jr., with the investigation leading to today’s arrests.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jane H. Yoon and Leslie Faye Schwartz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.