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DEA Shatters International Internet Drug Ring

By David Altfeder

The US DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has announced the results of Operation "Cyber Chase", a year long organized crime drug enforcement task force investigation that targeted international Internet pharmaceutical traffickers operating in the United States, India, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy announced the success of the program, part of the ongoing effort by the DEA to shut down "rogue Internet pharmacies which distribute drugs illegally in the United States.

Over the course of 48 hours, there were 20 arrests in the U.S. and overseas. Arrests occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ft. Lauderdale, Floria, Sarasota Florida, Abilene Texas and Tyler Texas. In addition, arrests occurred in San Jose, Costa Rica, New Delhi, Agra, and Bombay, India. Operation "Cyber Chase targeted major pharmaceutical drug traffickers who allegedly shipped Schedule II-V pharmaceutical controlled substances including amphetamines, narcotics and anabolic steroids directly to buyers of all ages without the medical examination by a physician required by U.S. law. The drug traffickers used more than 200 websites to illegally distribute these substances.

DEA Administrator Tandy; Scott Burns Deputy Director for State and Local Affairs, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP); Brian Lampkin, Section Chief, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Financial Crimes Section; Deputy Assistant Director of Investigations of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Paul Kilcoyne; Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, Food and Drug Administration, John M. Taylor; Paul J. Trimbur, Inspector in Charge, Mail Theft, Violent Crimes and Narcotics Investigations, U.S. Postal Inspections Service (USPIS); and Commissioner Mark W. Everson, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made the announcement today. The investigation was joined by the agencies listed above.

DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said, "For too long the Internet has been an open medicine cabinet with cyber drug dealers illegally doling out a vast array of narcotics, amphetamines, and steroids. In this first major international enforcement action against online rogue pharmacies and their sources of supply, we"ve logged these traffickers off the Internet."

John Walters, Director of National Drug Control Policy said, "Prescription drugs help millions of Americans every day. But their misuse is becoming a serious problem, abetted by drug traffickers who are using the Internet to attempt to subvert our medical prescription system. E-traffickers that target young people and those suffering from the disease of addiction are now the target of law enforcement action, while we continue to ensure proper access to needed medications. I would like to thank and applaud the agencies and offices involved in this investigation as their efforts truly make America safer."

"This investigation dismantled a major source of illicit pharmaceuticals that posed a significant public health threat. Closing down these illegal, Internet drug pipelines is essential to protecting consumers of pharmaceuticals," said Michael J. Garcia, Assistant Secretary, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The FBI remains committed to investigating the illegal sale of pharmaceuticals over the Internet. The FBI's Internet Pharmaceutical Fraud Initiative is working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal, state, local and international law enforcement partners to combat this crime and dismantle the responsible criminal enterprises, said FBI Director Robert Mueller. "Illegal pharmaceuticals pose a great risk to the health and welfare of the American public. These drugs are being manufactured overseas in unregulated facilities, smuggled into the United States in an uncontrolled environment, and distributed without oversight of a licensed physician or pharmacist."

"Operation Cyber Chase sends an instant message to "cybercriminals that the Internet is not their safehouse. Criminals, disguised as entrepreneurs, use the Internet to invade your home and push their poison. Whether the battle is on the street or on the Web, the outcome remains the same: Postal Inspectors will continue working with our law enforcement partners to bring offenders to justice," said Chief Postal Inspector Lee R. Heath

"Consumers ordering prescription drugs from a website they're not familiar with put themselves in a "buyer beware situation," said John Taylor, Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, Food and Drug Administration. "The medications may be coming from unknown sources, may not be stored or labeled properly, and may not meet quality assurance standards designed to produce safe and effective products. Many of the safeguards that exist for brick and mortar pharmacies do not exist for Internet Pharmacies and the potential for harmful drug interactions is magnified."

The combined efforts of law enforcement agencies in an investigation of this magnitude produce a formidable force against narcotics trafficking and money laundering. Individuals and businesses utilizing the Internet to sell pharmaceuticals are bound by the same laws and regulations that apply to the corner drug store, said Nancy Jardini, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. "The link between where the money comes from, who gets it, when it is received, and where it is stored or deposited, can provide evidence that a crime was committed. Finding and connecting those links is what IRS brings to this cooperative effort."

The combined agency initiative underscores the importance for consumers to scrutinize online pharmacy sites carefully. Avoid sites which offer narcotics, ampthetamines, anabolic steroids and other drugs of abuse. Avoid online pharmacies located outside the United States. The only legal online pharmacies in the U.S. are sites which either require a prescription from your physician or which have a licensed U.S. physician write your prescription. In addition, the pharmacy which fills orders must be a licensed U.S. pharmacy offering only FDA approved medication.

Copyright 2005 David Altfeder


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