Miami, Florida – Federal prosecutors in Miami have charged two additional men, 51-year-old Lazaro Hernandez and 37-year-old Eladio Vega, for their alleged roles in a widespread fraud scheme involving the distribution of adulterated and misbranded cancer, HIV, psychiatric, and other expensive prescription medications to unsuspecting patients. The third superseding indictment unsealed today brings the number of defendants charged in this case (19-cr-20674) to 15.
According to the indictment and other documents filed in the case, Hernandez and Vega were part of a prescription medication diversion fraud scheme that worked as follows: The operation involved a division of labor, in which street-level dealers supplied medicines to participants who inspected, cleaned, and packaged the drugs for shipment to others with established pharmaceutical wholesale companies. The wholesale company owners prepared fraudulent documentation, falsely representing that legitimate drug manufacturers had provided the medications to them. In fact, the suppliers had acquired the drugs through health care fraud, theft or burglary, or buying the medications from patients who obtained prescriptions but chose to sell them rather than take their medicines. With the false documentation, the company owners then sold the newly misbranded medications to retail pharmacies. In turn, the retail pharmacies sold the medications to patients who knew nothing about the real source of the drugs, which had been stored and transported with no regard to temperature, light, humidity, or other maintenance controls.
In order to conceal the nature of their criminal enterprise and the identities of those profiting from it, conspirators routed money obtained from sales of the mislabeled and adulterated drugs through the bank accounts of multiple shell companies, according to the court documents.
According to the indictment, Hernandez and Vega acquired and supplied to their co-conspirators the medications that were later misbranded and sold to unknowing patients. The indictment charges Hernandez and Vega with conspiracy to distribute misbranded and adulterated drugs, conspiracy to traffic in medical products with false documentation, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and four counts of mail fraud. It also charges Hernandez with two counts of money laundering.
To date, eight of the 15 defendants charged in this case have entered guilty pleas.
Hernandez is also charged in a separate case in the Southern District of Florida involving prescription medication diversion: U.S. v. Hernandez, Case No. 22-cr-60129. Hernandez made his initial court appearance in both cases today in federal magistrate court in Miami.
U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of FBI Miami; and Special Agent in Charge Justin C. Fielder of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
FBI Miami and FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Miami are investigating this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Tamen is prosecuting it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling asset forfeiture.
An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 19-cr-20674.