Jail sentences for US pharma cargo thieves

Jail timeThree men in the US have been given jail terms after pleading guilty to involvement in the theft of $2.2m-worth of Mucinex cough medicine and Similac baby formula valued at $550,000.

Jorge Nimer Rolo (48), 45-year-old Lazaro Martinez (known as Fat Laz) and Antonio Ramirez (54), who went by the name Tony Bodega, were part of an organised theft ring that stole the items from a site in Fort Worth, Texas, and a refuelling centre park in Richland, Mississippi, in 2012.

Last year, five other people were convicted under the 2012 Safe Doses Act in connection with the same theft, receiving sentences of between 34 and 60 months.

Miami resident Nimer Rolo, who was sentenced to 108 months for his part in the criminal activity, acted as a broker for the pharmaceuticals as well as other stolen cargo including computers, electronics, perfume and women's lingerie, according to the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI).

Martinez and Ramirez were also brokers and were sentenced to 18 months and 36 months, respectively. Martinez was a co-owner of Tadeo Supermarket in Miami where stolen cargo was sold, and he acted as a buyer and re-seller of stolen cargo with others, including Ramirez, said the OCI.

"Theft and the illegal sale of pre-retail medical products present a risk to public safety," said US Attorney Wifredo Ferrer. 

"The significant sentences that have been handed down by the courts, against participants in the cargo theft scheme, tell us all that consumer protection is of utmost importance."

Pharma crime news in brief

- Two workers at a warehouse in Guangshui, China, have been arrested on suspicion of stealing $2.6m-worth of pharmaceuticals, reports BSI. A warehouse supervisor and salesperson are suspected of carrying out a series of small thefts over time from a warehouse operated by a pharmaceutical wholesaler. The pilferage activity went undetected for months until it was eventually spotted by the facility's inventory manager. A review of surveillance footage revealed that the supervisor would routinely take one or two boxes of medicines after switching off the lights at the end of the working day.

- An enforcement campaign against prescription drug diversion and abuse carried out by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and federal prosecutors - dubbed Operation Pilluted - has led to 280 arrests including 22 doctors and pharmacists.  The 15-month operation targeted pain clinics and pharmacies in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas and focused on illicit opioid drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl, as well as other drugs such as Xanax (alprazolam).  In 2013, approximately 44,000 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in the US, equivalent to one death every 13 minutes - and more than half were attributed to prescription drugs.

- Police in Florida have arrested two truck drivers in relation to the attempted hijacking of a pharmaceutical shipment valued at around $300,000. The case is one of the first recorded incidents of "driver give-up" involving pharmaceuticals, according to the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC).  One of the drivers - Jose-Levy Ibanez (46) - was contracted to drive the shipment from a pharmaceutical warehouse in Lakeland to one in Atlanta, Georgia, but stopped en route and - with the help of Arnaldo Zaldivar (53) - disabled the shipment's GPS system and switched number plates, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The entire shipment was recovered intact.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Offstock

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