Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, 11 Individuals Indicted for Pill Fraud Scheme

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    Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, 11 Individuals Indicted for Pill Fraud Scheme


    11 indicted in Internet prescription drugs scam | ajc.com

    Federal authorities say Norcross-based Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals and 11 people connected to it acted as "snake oil salesmen," peddling on the Internet nearly $20 million worth of adulterated, misbranded pills produced under substandard and unsanitary conditions in Belize.

    Hi-Tech and the defendants allegedly opened the facility in 2002 and for the next few years marketed 24 different illegally produced pharmaceuticals as cheaper, generic Canadian versions of popular U.S-made brands using Internet "spam" advertising.

    The list of knock-offs produced in Belize includes steroids Oxymethelone and Stanozolol, controlled drugs Ambien, Valium and Xanax, and prescription drugs Viagra, Cialis, Lipitor and Vioxx, according to the 50-page federal indictment released Wednesday.

    Hi-Tech denies any wrongdoing. Formed in 1998, Hi-Tech at its Norcross facility produces and distributes wholesale supplements, dietary supplements and other health-related products.

    "We are confident that the facts will show that Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals is appropriately conducting business and that there is no basis for this indictment," Tim Fulmer, a lawyer representing the company, said in a statement.

    "We are disappointed that the [Department of Justice] has chosen to take this action and we will demonstrate the innocence of both the company and our employees."

    U.S. district attorneys and other federal officials did not have information on Wednesday about the composition and quality of the pills or on the number of unsuspecting Internet consumers or how many may have been sickened from taking the fake products.

    Sherri Strange, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Atlanta Office, said the case points out the perils of buying prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals over the Internet.

    "My advice is buyers beware," Strange said. "Know what you're getting when you buy it."

    Also Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Walker refused bond for company president and owner Jared R. Wheat, 34, of Alpharetta; vice president Stephen D. Smith, 38, of Duluth; and employee Sergio R. Oliveira, 46, of Hoschton, who also owns the diet supplement company New You Inc.

    Previous criminal history, including illegal drug involvement, and concern about flight risks were factors, Walker said.

    "We're disappointed with the magistrate's decision," said Victory Kelley, co-counsel for Wheat. "We think the prosecution got it all wrong, and we're going to appeal it to district court."

    Walker, however, did release David Watkins, 40, of Norcross on a $75,000 bond.

    Thomas Holda, 43, of Duluth, also named in the indictment was in custody on an unrelated charge, authorities said.

    Other defendants named in the indictment are in custody in North Carolina, Alabama, South Dakota and Belize.

    Brad N. Watkins, 38, of Birmingham is considered a fugitive.

    All the defendants are charged with felony conspiracy to import controlled substances and to introduce adulterated and misbranded prescription medication, according to the indictment.

    Eight have additional charges of mail fraud, distribution of controlled substances and introducing adulterated and misbranded new drugs.

    The indictment also charges Wheat, 34, with engaging in a continuous criminal enterprise. He is considered the lead defendant in the case.

    Wheat, Oliveira and Smith pleaded innocent to the charges during Wednesday's arraignment and detention hearing.

    Federal authorities are seeking a financial judgment of at least $19.8 million generated through the alleged scam, plus forfeiture of numerous properties, vehicles and bank accounts, according to the indictment.

    The Food and Drug Administration has a separate lawsuit pending against Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Jared Wheat, Thomas Holda, Stephen Smith and a Norcross doctor named Terrill Mark Wright for making false or unsubstantiated claims for three of the company's dietary and erectile dysfunction products.

    Hi-Tech offices remained locked and dark Wednesday afternoon.

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    "My advice is buyers beware," Strange said. "Know what you're getting when you buy it."
    That's why every product I get gets run through my home based chem lab...What the ****...How can we know what's in something until 1. some person with cash tests it. Or 2. gov't agency tests it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayhawkk
    That's why every product I get gets run through my home based chem lab...What the ****...How can we know what's in something until 1. some person with cash tests it. Or 2. gov't agency tests it.
    I agree, or stick with reputable companies like NOW who has GMP certification.

    I made the mistake of buying one of their products, and it came in today. It was missing 8 tablets, so I was searching trying to find their website and then saw this article.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jayhawkk
    That's why every product I get gets run through my home based chem lab...What the ****...How can we know what's in something until 1. some person with cash tests it. Or 2. gov't agency tests it.
    let me borrow that lab real quick
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    Sergio Oliviera? Former Mr. Olympia?

    No way he is only 46.
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    Smile


    Quote Originally Posted by dsade
    Sergio Oliviera? Former Mr. Olympia?

    No way he is only 46.
    ..was he so bitter about being "ripped off" by Arnold in 1969, that he turned to a life of crime?...of course considering he was just 9 years old makes the judges decision appear to be even more biased!!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by anabolicrhino
    ..was he so bitter about being "ripped off" by Arnold in 1969, that he turned to a life of crime?...of course considering he was just 9 years old makes the judges decision appear to be even more biased!!!

    I saw him hanging out with Franco Colombo outside of a bank wearing a Nixon mask last year. I should have KNOWN it.
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