Counterfeit contact lens seller gets jail time

The owner of an online contact lens retailer has been sentenced to almost four years in jail in the largest-ever case of its kind in the US.

Las Vegas man Dmitriy Melnik had previously admitted selling counterfeit coloured contact lenses, sourced from China and South Korea, to unsuspecting customers without a prescription from his Candy Color Lenses store.

Along with the 46 month jail term, 30-year-old Melnik will make $200,000 in restitution and forfeit $1.2m in proceeds derived from the scheme as well as property seized during the investigation.

According to the plea agreement, Melnik imported large quantities of coloured contact lenses that he knew were counterfeit and/or unauthorized by the FDA for sale in the US, and sold them to thousands of customers around the US "without a prescription, adequate directions for use or adequate warnings."

A Department of Justice statement notes that many of the contact lenses bore labels with counterfeit trademarks for Ciba Vision FreshLook ColorBlends, which are manufactured by Novartis, as well as genuine brands produced and sold in Asia.

"After purchasing the contact lenses, many customers complained directly to Melnik about the quality of the contact lenses and questioned Melnik about whether the contact lenses were genuine and FDA approved, says the DoJ.

"Melnik admitted that many of the contact lenses that he sold were substandard, and that some were tested and found to be contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria," putting users at risk of serious eye injury including blindness.

The prosecution is the result of an ongoing multiagency effort to combat counterfeit, illegally imported and unapproved contact lenses called Operation Double Vision.

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