Two California residents and an associated company importing ingredients into the United States have been indicted for a smuggling scheme in which controversial substances, such as steroid precursors, ended up in products marketed as dietary supplements.
In early November, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles returned a seven-count indictment against Lynn Chau, 43, of Rosemead, California, Bao Luu, 42, of Mira Loma, California, and Pure Assay Ingredients Inc., Chau’s import company based in City of Industry, California.
Chau and Luu were arrested Nov. 28, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced last week in a news release.
Also indicted: two Chinese citizens who worked for the company in Chengdu, China.
The indictment alleged the defendants conspired to deceive FDA and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection by mislabeling stimulants and other questionable ingredients to dodge government scrutiny during import. When the defendants supposed an ingredient would be denied entry into the United States or would draw questions from federal officials, they prepared fraudulent documents and submitted them to FDA, the indictment claimed.
The dishonest documents, DOJ’s news release said, typically declared the substances to be melatonin, sucralose or other legal ingredients.
According to the indictment, the defendants sold the controversial substances to dietary supplement manufacturers in the United States for use in consumer products.
“This case alleges a scheme designed to generate profits at the expense of the public’s health and safety,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna said, in a statement. “Members of the conspiracy are charged with smuggling prohibited substances, such as steroid precursors, and attempting to prevent U.S. officials from learning the true nature of the shipments that made their way into so-called dietary supplements. We will continue to investigate and prosecute people involved in deceptive practices that endanger consumers.”
DOJ cited one instance in which Chau and Luu prepared a false shipment to deceive FDA into believing Pure Assay destroyed substances the agency blocked from distribution. The company, however, had already shipped the real products, DOJ said.
The individual defendants could not be immediately reached for comment, and Pure Assay Ingredients did not respond to a voicemail and electronic submission through their webpage requesting comment on the indictment.
The case follows a separate prosecution against Chinese citizens charged with conspiring to mislabel synthetic dietary supplement ingredients or otherwise helping to conceal the genuine nature of a purported dietary supplement from American retailers, DOJ said.
Three Chinese nationals were arrested last year in Las Vegas while attending a dietary supplement trade show, Informa’s SupplySide West. They later pleaded guilty in connection with the prosecution, DOJ said.
As INSIDER previously reported, the indictment against the Chinese companies and several of their employees were for charges related to the intended sale of mislabeled DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine), including fraud, smuggling and obstruction.