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April 27, 2018: Seller of Counterfeit & Unapproved Pharmaceuticals Sentenced to Prison

OCI Small Clear Seal 


Food & Drug Administration 
Office of Criminal Investigations


SAN DIEGO – Tijuana resident Alejandro Hernandez was sentenced in federal court today to 30 months in custody for conspiring to smuggle & sell counterfeit & unapproved drugs. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution of $9,750 to Eli Lilly & Co., for losses related to his sale of counterfeit products. 

During a long-term undercover investigation, agents purchased counterfeit or unapproved pharmaceuticals from Hernandez on six separate occasions – oftentimes in a Chula Vista parking lot, paying for them with cash.  The drugs were all labeled in the Spanish language, & included products such as Buscapina, Prodolina and Neo-Melubrina, which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the United States. Hernandez also provided counterfeit versions of several drugs, including Viagra & Cialis. 


Hernandez told undercover operatives that his boss in Mexico had other employees, including a driver who would walk or drive across the border with the pharmaceuticals.  Surveillance indicated that Hernandez stored the illegal pharmaceuticals at various self-storage units near the border.  Agents arrested Hernandez earlier this year as he made a delivery of pharmaceuticals, & executed a search warrant at one of his self-storage units. The search yielded over $250,000 of unapproved & counterfeit pharmaceuticals in the storage unit, as well as ledgers documenting years of sales. 


“This office is committed to protecting the health & safety of the citizens in our district by keeping counterfeit & unapproved prescription drugs off the market, & prosecuting individuals who seek to profit from the illegal distribution of such drugs,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman.


“U.S. consumers rely on the FDA’s scientific review to ensure that their drugs are safe & effective,” said FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Special Agent in Charge Lisa Malinowski. “The mission that drives our investigations is protecting patients from unsafe drugs.  As there are no assurances that unapproved products from foreign sources are safe or effective, we must protect consumers from these foreign unapproved medicines. The FDA will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who violate the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act by introducing unapproved & misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.‎”


“Homeland Security Investigations agents, our law enforcement partners, & prosecutors worked diligently to investigate Hernandez’s criminal activity,” said David Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of HSI in San Diego. “Today’s sentencing shows our commitment to bring to justice those who endanger the public by illegally importing and distributing counterfeit pharmaceuticals.”


DEFENDANT                                               Criminal Case No. 18cr0380-DMS

Alejandro Hernandez                                      Age: 54                                   Tijuana, Mexico



Count 1

Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371

Maximum penalty: 5 years in custody, fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense, restitution, three years of supervised release



Homeland Security Investigations

Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations



USAO – California, Southern


Press Release Number: 


Updated: April 30, 2018 — 7:33 pm

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