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November 28, 2023
An Idaho man who pleaded guilty to selling unapproved muscle building drugs as supplements has been sentenced to two years in prison. Prosecutors had been seeking a three-year term in the case.
In mid-April, Michael Terry Little, 51, of Nampa, Idaho, pleaded guilty to operating a business he called SARMTECH that sold products containing selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs), a category of steroid-like substances that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers dangerous.
SARMs are synthetic chemicals designed to mimic the effects of testosterone and other anabolic steroids. SARMs are “new drugs” under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and have not been approved for any medical condition.
Little pleaded guilty to charges that over the course of a bit less than four years he sold about $4.5 million worth of the products from a warehouse he had set up as an encapsulation and bottling facility. In mid-November, he was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison in a court in Idaho.
“Drugs that are produced and distributed outside the FDA’s oversight present the risk of harm to the public health,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert M. Iwanicki, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Los Angeles Field Office. “We remain committed to pursuing and bringing to justice those who attempt to subvert the regulatory functions of the FDA by distributing unapproved products.”
“This investigation illustrates the dangers of circumventing U.S. regulations with unapproved drugs and chemicals coming from China, where the safety of such chemicals can often not be confirmed,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in the Pacific Northwest. “HSI and our partners are committed to keeping all forms of unapproved products off our streets, especially those that risk public health and safety.”
The government’s sentencing memo, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Idaho at the end of October, had sought a 36-month sentence for the crime. The memo detailed how Little tried to evade detection by federal authorities and avoid having overseas shipments seized.
Little bought his SARMs raw material from Chinese suppliers and then encapsulated the products with commercial-grade machinery he had set up in the warehouse.
According to prosecutors, Little offered a service he called “stealth shipping” to his customers for an additional fee. To avoid seizure of the products Little would package them in bottles with labels claiming they were vitamin or mineral supplements. Color coding on the labels would then inform customers which of the SARMs they had ordered were in the bottles.
Little displayed a chart on his website that purported to assess the relative risk in various countries for import seizure of the products if they were shipped with truthful labels as opposed to the stealth variety. Interestingly, Little assessed the risk of seizure when shipping SARMs within the U.S. military network as zero, whether they were disguised or not.
A sentencing memo filed by Little’s attorneys set forth extenuating circumstances that militated against the maximum sentence, in their view.
Little’s attorneys argued he had no prior criminal history except for a disturbing the peace charge from years before. In addition, they claimed he had cooperated with authorities and had already liquidated his retirement investment account, sold a property in Tulum, Mexico, and prepared U.S. real estate properties for sale to pay toward the ordered $4.5 million forfeiture judgement. He had also agreed to forfeit two motorcycles.
Little’s attorneys claimed that previous convictions in SARMs cases have yielded prison terms of up to one year and a day but not more. Several cases involved sentences of three years on probation, they claimed.
In addition, the memo included statements attesting to Little’s good character. Those included one testimonial from former North Carolina state senator Clark Plexico, who was one of his neighbors in Mexico.
Senior Editor, Informa
Hank Schultz has been the Senior Editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023.
His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.
The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.
Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.
In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.
When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking, and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.
Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.
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