Store Owner Who Sold Drug-Tainted ‘Supplements’ Faces Possible Prison Sentence

A store owner from Texas has admitted to knowingly selling diet drugs as dietary supplements and faces potential time behind bars.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

June 21, 2018

2 Min Read
Store Owner Who Sold Drug-Tainted ‘Supplements’ Faces Possible Prison Sentence

A store owner has admitted to knowingly selling diet drugs as dietary supplements and faces up to six years in federal prison and fines of up to US$350,000, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced this week.

Vanessa Gonzales, of Corpus Christi, Texas, has pleaded guilty to one count of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute and one count of receiving a misbranded drug in interstate commerce, DOJ revealed in a news release. She was one of the owners of a business (X2Zero) selling dietary supplements online and through stores in Corpus Christi.

“The FDA found a number of the products X2Zero sold as ‘herbal weight loss supplements’ to contain misbranded or unapproved foreign drugs,” DOJ stated.

During a June 18 court hearing, “Gonzales admitted she knowingly possessed and sold diet drugs containing sibutramine,” DOJ added in the news release. “She acknowledged she imported the drugs from China and sold them through both the X2Zero store in Corpus Christi and on the internet in violation of” federal law.

In 1997, FDA approved a prescription drug containing sibutramine under the trade name Meridia to treat obesity. However, FDA withdrew its approval of the medicine in late 2010 at the manufacturer’s request, following concerns that sibutramine posed an increased risk of death, heart attack and stroke.

Gonzales, 35, is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 17, 2018. Nathan Fugate, a lawyer representing her, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

In 2017, a co-defendant in the case, Elias Trevino Jr., was sentenced to one year in prison. While handing down the sentence, Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey reportedly described Trevino’s behavior as “egregious conduct that I can’t ignore."

The misbranded drugs were sold under such names as “Bella Vi INSANE AMP’D," “Zeal DynamiZm" and “Vivacious Natural Eruption," according to an indictment against Trevino and Gonzales.

“Drugs labeled as natural dietary supplements that contain undeclared, dangerous ingredients present a serious risk to consumers’ health," Spencer Morrison of FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations said in a Nov. 20, 2017 news release, announcing the sentence against Trevino. “We will continue to pursue and bring to justice criminals who endanger the public by offering and distributing such falsely labeled and dangerous drugs."


About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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