Indian pharmacologist charged with smuggling fake drugs

An Indian pharmacologist and an American pharmacist have been charged with smuggling four million misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals into the US, federal prosecutors said.

Washington: An Indian pharmacologist and an American pharmacist have been charged with smuggling four million misbranded and counterfeit pharmaceuticals into the US, federal prosecutors said.

Indian Balbir Bhogal, 67, from Las Vegas, and Wisconsin-based pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimn, 59, were arraigned on an indictment yesterday in federal court in Central Islip, New York, before US Magistrate Judge Gary Brown.

In a 10-count indictment, the duo was charged with importing and distributing controlled substances and misbranded drugs, trafficking in counterfeit drugs, mail and wire fraud, smuggling and money laundering.

According to the indictment and information presented at the arraignment, from June 2007 to May 2010, Ahlgrimm and Bhogal, who allegedly arranged for the manufacture in India of millions of tablets of controlled substances, including alprazolam and phentermine, and prescription drugs, including carisoprodol and counterfeit Viagra.

Although they did not hold an importer's license from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the defendants allegedly arranged for the importation of the same drugs into the US.

Neither the incoming packages nor the tablets themselves were labelled or identified as controlled substances or prescription drugs, federal prosecutors alleged.

The drugs were allegedly intended to be supplied to an online pharmacy, based in Costa Rica that catered to customers within the US, including Brooklyn and Queens, New York.

The online pharmacy used call centres and websites based outside the US, but filled the orders from inside the US using individuals who were not licensed pharmacists to bottle, label and drop-ship the drugs.

To facilitate the operation, the defendants allegedly wired money from Costa Rica to the US and then to India, federal prosecutors said.

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