LOS ANGELES – A Puerto Rican man was sentenced on Monday to two years in federal prison for being a key member of an organization that distributed large quantities of Chinese-made, counterfeit pharmaceuticals across the United States.
Francis Ortiz Gonzalez, 36, was sentenced Monday morning by U.S. District Judge George H. Wu, who also ordered the defendant to pay $324,530 in restitution to the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture brand name products such as Lipitor, Viagra, Xanax and Cialis.
The case is the result of investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
In September 2009, federal agents executed a search warrant at Ortiz Gonzalez’s residence in Trujillo Alto, a suburb of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Inside the home, investigators found more than 100,000 pills that resembled a variety of popular prescription medications made by companies such as Pfizer Inc. and Eli Lilly and Company. Investigators found evidence that Ortiz Gonzalez obtained the counterfeit pills from China and had shipped more than 140,000 of them to individuals throughout the United States. If the drugs had been authentic, the retail value of the pills Ortiz Gonzalez possessed in his home and shipped would be more than $1 million.
Following a six-day trial last summer, Ortiz Gonzalez was convicted on one count of conspiracy and seven counts of trafficking in counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Ortiz Gonzalez was acquitted on three charges. His wife, Ideliz Aleman-Valentin, was acquitted on all charges.
Ortiz Gonzalez packaged and shipped more than 140,000 counterfeit tablets during a seven-month period in 2009 while working as a “dropshipper” for a counterfeit drug ring allegedly headed by Bo Jiang, 34, a Chinese national whose last known residence was in New Zealand. In January 2011, Jiang was taken into custody on a provisional arrest warrant by New Zealand law enforcement authorities, but he fled shortly after being released on bond. Jiang remains a fugitive.
In a related case before Judge Wu, a North Hollywood man was found guilty on January 11 of federal charges involving the trafficking of counterfeit pharmaceuticals.
Edward Alarcon, 44, was convicted of two counts of trafficking in counterfeit OxyContin and Cialis; he was acquitted on two other counts. The evidence presented during a three-day jury trial showed that Alarcon had purchased the counterfeit OxyContin from Bo Jiang, the same man who allegedly supplied Ortiz Gonzalez.
On Nov. 10, 2009, HSI special agents found approximately 237 counterfeit OxyContin pills and approximately 1,592 counterfeit Cialis pills in Alarcon’s car and house. Investigators also found hundreds of other counterfeit pills, including Viagra and Levitra. Only a month before the federal search, Alarcon had been convicted in state court on counterfeit drug charges for selling counterfeit Cialis to an undercover Los Angeles Police Department officer in 2008.
Alarcon is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wu April 4. At that time, Alarcon faces a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.