Two Pakistani Nationals Extradited to District of Columbia to Face Charges Involving Illegal Pharmaceutical Shipments
Defendants Allegedly Shipped Nearly $780,000 in Drugs into U.S.
|U.S. Attorney’s Office May 20, 2013|
WASHINGTON—Two Pakistani nationals have been extradited to the United States to face charges alleging that they operated Internet sites that illegally shipped pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers in the United States.
Sheikh Waseem Ul Haq, 40, and Tahir Saeed, 51, are accused of operating Internet sites that, since late 2005, illegally shipped $2 million in pharmaceuticals from Pakistan and the United Kingdom to customers worldwide, including nearly $780,000 in sales to U.S. purchasers.
The defendants, who were arrested in London last fall, have been arraigned in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They were brought to the District of Columbia by the U.S. Marshals Service. Ul Haq had his first court appearance today. Saeed was arraigned on April 18, 2013. Both remain in custody pending further proceedings.
The developments were announced by Ronald C. Machen, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Acting Assistant Attorney General Stuart F. Delery of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division; Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; Antoinette V. Henry, Special Agent in Charge of the Metro Washington Field Office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations; Gary R. Barksdale, Inspector in Charge, Washington Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Karl C. Colder, Special Agent in Charge of the Washington Division Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The defendants were indicted November 6, 2012, following a presentation of evidence by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, working in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch. The 48-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to import controlled substance pharmaceuticals into the United States; conspiracy to distribute controlled substance pharmaceuticals; conspiracy to introduce misbranded pharmaceuticals into interstate commerce; importation and distribution of controlled substance pharmaceuticals; introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded drugs; and conspiracy to commit international money laundering. It also includes a forfeiture allegation seeking all proceeds that can be traced to the scheme.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for each of the two counts involving the conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances, as well as up to 20 years for the conspiracy to commit international money laundering. They face a maximum penalty of five years for conspiracy to introduce misbranded pharmaceuticals into interstate commerce and additional time if convicted of the other charges.
According to the indictment, the defendants and others owned, operated, and conducted business as Waseem Enterprises and Harry’s Enterprises, wholesale pharmaceutical companies that were located in Pakistan. The businesses were used to unlawfully distribute a wide variety of controlled substances and prescription drugs through Internet sites. The defendants and others also advertised their companies on Internet sites to generate business.
Ul Haq and Saeed directed U.S. customers to submit payments via Western Union to numerous individuals in Karachi, Pakistan, in order to conceal the fact that the funds were going to Ul Haq and Saeed. As alleged in the indictment, the defendants admitted in e-mails that they paid bribes to Pakistani customs officials to facilitate shipment of the drugs out of Pakistan and warned that U.S. customers bore the risk of interception by U.S. customs officials. The indictment alleges that the defendants packaged the drug shipments in ways that reduced the likelihood of interdiction by customs inspectors and told customers that, despite the packaging, some of the shipments might not get through.
The drugs shipped into the United States included methylphenidate (sold as Ritalin); various anabolic steroids; alprazolam (sold as Xanax); diazepam (sold as Valium); lorazepam (sold as Ativan); clonazepam (sold as Klonapin); and other controlled and non-controlled substances.
The strict statutes and regulations for pharmaceuticals—allegedly bypassed in this case by the defendants’ conduct—are designed to protect consumers from adulterated, contaminated, and counterfeit drugs and to ensure that medically necessary drugs are dispensed by licensed pharmacists who are filling legitimately issued prescriptions by licensed physicians.
In early October 2012, a law enforcement task force investigating the case learned that the defendants would be traveling from Pakistan to northern Europe. With the assistance of Interpol and law enforcement agents in Germany and the United Kingdom, the defendants were tracked from Germany to London. With coordination from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, U.S. authorities lodged provisional arrest warrants for the defendants in the United Kingdom.
The defendants were arrested by the London Metropolitan Police Service Fugitive Squad at a hotel near Heathrow Airport on October 19, 2012. They subsequently were presented to Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London and ordered held pending extradition to the United States. On March 25, 2013, the United Kingdom Minister of State issued extradition orders for both defendants, which became final when neither defendant appealed.
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“These defendants are accused of taking part in an international conspiracy to sell and ship unregulated pharmaceuticals to American consumers, without any doctors involved,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “The extradition of these Pakistani nationals demonstrates our commitment to aggressively investigating and prosecuting those who are intent on shipping unregulated and potentially dangerous drugs into the United States.”
“The illegal sale of prescription drugs by Internet pharmacies operating around the world presents a serious threat to public health and safety,” said Assistant Director in Charge Parlave. “Together with our federal, state, loca,l and international law enforcement partners, the FBI will continue to diligently investigate the fraudulent sale of controlled prescription drugs to protect our citizens from this danger.”
“The FDA will aggressively pursue those who offer drugs for sale over the Internet that are of unknown safety and efficacy, bypassing FDA’s regulatory authority and placing citizens at risk,” said Antoinette V. Henry, Metro Washington OCI Field Office.
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An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This investigation was sponsored and supported by the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office; the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The U.S. Marshals Service provided assistance. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Dominguez and Linda I. Marks, Senior Litigation Counsel for the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, who coordinated the investigation and presented the evidence to the grand jury.