A man in Georgia was convicted last month of a conspiracy and the illegal importation of misbranded drug products from China that an FDA official indicated were distributed as “all-natural supplements."
Following a six-day trial, a jury also convicted Ismail Ali Khan of receiving misbranded drugs that moved through interstate commerce and making false statements so he could become a naturalized U.S. citizen, the U.S. Justice Department announced in a Feb. 16 news release.
In 2014, Khan—then 26 years old from Decatur, Georgia—and four other defendants were indicted on federal charges of conspiring to illegally import into the United States male enhancement products that contained sildenafil, the active ingredient in the drug Viagra. At the time, the Justice Department said the defendants had wire transferred more than $2 million in U.S. currency to bank accounts in China to pay for the merchandise.
The conspiracy goes back to 2011 when Khan and his brother began ordering male enhancement products from China that were marketed under such names as “Rock Hard Weekend," “Stiff Nights" and “African Black Ant," the Justice Department alleged.
Federal prosecutors alleged the defendants imported and distributed products that were mislabeled as “all-natural" and “herbal." The labels purportedly failed to warn consumers that the products contained sildenafil and tadalafil, the active pharmaceutical ingredient found in the drug Cialis.
“Distributing unapproved and misbranded drugs disguised as all-natural supplements places the U.S. public health at risk," said Justin Green, a special agent in charge, with FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations in the Miami field office, in the Justice Department’s news release. “We will remain vigilant in our efforts to protect American consumers from these fraudulent and potentially dangerous products."
FDA criminal investigators have identified many products labeled and marketed as “all natural" or “supplements" that contain undeclared active pharmaceutical ingredients. The adulterated, or unlawful, products are often marketed for sexual enhancement, bodybuilding and weight loss.
Efforts to Evade Customs and FDA
The prosecution against the defendants reflects the lengths to which criminals will go to evade federal authorities when importing and distributing adulterated products.
The Justice Department alleged the defendants directed their suppliers to mislabel boxes containing the products to avoid import restrictions. The customs declaration attached to the boxes falsely declared that the boxes contained such goods as “tea," “coffee" and “beauty products," the Justice Department noted, adding FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection would not have allowed the products to enter the United States if they had been properly labeled.
After receiving the shipments from China, Khan and his co-conspirators purportedly moved the products to storage units where they arranged orders for wholesale distributors of the products.
Revocation of U.S. Citizenship
Ismail Ali Khan is scheduled for sentencing on April 27, 2017 before U.S. District Judge Steve Jones. During his sentencing hearing, the judge will sign an order revoking Khan’s U.S. citizenship, the Justice Department said, indicating the circumstances behind the expected revocation.
In 2013 during the conspiracy, in an application to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, Khan falsely declared he had never committed a criminal offense for which he had not been arrested, the Justice Department said. The defendant repeated the false statement in an interview with Citizenship and Naturalization Services, and again before he took the oath to become a naturalized citizen, the government agency said.
On March 14, 2014, based on the false statements, Khan became a naturalized U.S. citizen, the Justice Department said.
Amanda R. Clark Palmer, an attorney representing Khan, did not respond to a request for comment. Bob Page, a spokesman with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia, declined a request for an interview with federal prosecutors to discuss the case.