By SGT. Steve Opferman
A Los Angeles County task force took out a large scale pharmaceutical counterfeiting operation in Hayward, California. The counterfeiters used a legitimate vitamin factory to disguise their operation. The owner plead open to 2 felony counts of counterfeiting and 1 felony count of possession of controlled substances for sales. He received 5 years in state prison. His accomplice received felony probation, while another suspect passed away, prior to being convicted.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes Bureau HALT team (Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force) is a multi-agency, multijurisdictional task force that deals with crimes that impact public health and safety. Investigating illegal distribution and diversion of pharmaceuticals, including counterfeits, is one of the teams many functions.
Detectives received information from an informant that an individual was selling large quantities of counterfeit steroid and Viagra tablets. In this case, the Viagra tablets were white, instead of blue, since the counterfeiters had not yet perfected a color coating method for the pills. A meeting was arraigned with undercover detectives at an upscale Santa Monica hotel room for a “buybust” operation. A lone suspect appeared with steroid and Viagra tablet samples and offered to sell detectives a suitcase full of the product for $250,000.00. After a cash flash, the suspect agreed to the deal and was arrested shortly thereafter.
Upon further investigation, detectives learned that the suspect in custody was responsible for transporting active pharmaceutical ingredients, “Sildenifil Citrate” and “Anadrol” from a Tijuana, Mexico “Pharmacia” placed in “Met-Rx” and other body building protein powder containers. The active ingredients were shipped from India to Mexico. The suspect would take the active ingredients to a vitamin factory in Hayward, CA., which was operated by the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angels where they were compounded and pressed into pills.
A search warrant was written for the vitamin factory and a great deal of evidence was seized. This included machined metal dies to stamp out the counterfeit tablets, all of the ingredients, counterfeit labels and packaging materials. Also discovered was dies to manufacture ecstasy tablets. It was learned that the vitamin factory had previously manufactured large quantities of ecstasy, but discontinued for fear of getting caught. The operation switched to pharmaceuticals, knowing that it carries more lenient sentencing if caught.
The suspects in this investigation were prosecuted in Los Angeles. One prominent Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club member that was implicated, fled to Arizona and passed away, prior to being convicted.