US man pleads guilty to selling fake contact lenses

A Las Vegas man has admitted selling counterfeit coloured contact lenses to unsuspecting customers, without a prescription.

29-year-old Dmitriy Melnik sourced the potentially hazardous fakes from China and South Korea and sold them to consumers via his company Candy Color Lenses, tapping into a growing trend among teens and young adults to go the extra mile when dressing up for Halloween or other costume events.

There is no way of knowing if counterfeit lenses are made in a sterile environment and with approved materials, so users run the risk of permanently damaging their eyes and in extreme cases going blind.

The knock-offs sold by Melnik were copies of well-known contact lens brands including Ciba Vision FreshLook ColorBlends, as well as Asian products such as Cool Cosmetic Tornado B and Innova Vision's ColorMaker, ColorNova, Magic, Dragon Gold and Picasso products.

Melnik is estimated to have received at least $1.2m in gross revenue from the illegal enterprise, including approximately $200,000 alone from the sale of counterfeit Ciba Vision products.

He pleaded guilty late last week to a federal charge of conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods and to introduce into interstate commerce misbranded devices. The plea agreement could get him up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

"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," notes the plea agreement.

"Melnik admitted that some of the contact lenses he sold were tested and found to be contaminated with potentially hazardous bacteria," it continues.

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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