Dark Net counterfeit Xanax seller sentenced to three years

A man from Inverness, Florida, has been sentenced to three years in prison for selling hundreds of thousands of counterfeit prescription drug pills through the Internet.

Benjamin Burdick (55) sold at least 249,700 counterfeit Xanax (alprazolam) pills through Dark Net marketplaces from at least April 2019 until October 2020. He was arrested in October 2020 alongside his partner Catilynkyrie Burdick (29).

Undercover federal agents purchased multiple packages of counterfeit pills from Burdick. When his home was searched, agents recovered 16,000 counterfeit pills, a pill press and mixers, and almost $150,000 in cash. Six firearms and miscellaneous ammunition were also recovered from the residence.

From his residence, Burdick used a pill press to manufacture pills that he stamped with the letters 'Xanax' and the code G7322.

The pills did not contain just alprazolam, which genuine Xanax contains, but also included other substances – such as flualprazolam, etizolam, and adinazolam – which are more potent than alprazolam and could lead to overdose.

"By selling counterfeit drugs through the Dark Net, the defendant recklessly endangered the community and placed his own personal gain over the health and safety of the public," said Raj Parekh, acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Under US law, it is a violation to purchase a pill press without notifying the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), although it is currently not illegal to own one. However, it is against the law to possess a pill press with a die mould that resembles a prescription pill or trademarked pharmaceutical drug.

Last year, the DEA launched an outreach programme targeting online retailers who are facilitating the production of fake prescription drugs, after it became clearer that this equipment is widely available online. Some retailers – including Amazon – have already banned the sale of such equipment.

Data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shows however that pill press seizures at international mail facilities are increasing every year, growing 19-fold between 2011 to 2017.

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