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Counterfeit prescription drug racket busted in Phoenix, 26 arrested

Published On: 06-28-2016 in Category: drug bust


A two-year long investigation led to the arrest of 26 suspects and closure of 23 stores called “yerberias” in Phoenix, Chandler and Mesa recently. The investigation, dubbed as “Operation Unscripted,” involved multiple counterfeit prescription drug busts. The suspects were illegally bringing medications and other health products from Mexico and Latin America.

The operation that started in 2014 was a multi-agency effort to curb the flow of counterfeit prescription drugs into Arizona. In June 2016, the police raided many yerberias that stashed numerous dangerous counterfeit drugs in hidden cabinets. Yerberias were not illegal as they sold folk medications, said the authorities.

Counterfeit medications have harmful ingredients

Investigators found that one of the medicines was already banned in the U.S. and is available only through prescriptions. In fact, the authorities suspected that the medicines may be expired and contaminated that could increase the health risks.

As most of these yerberias are located in the Latino neighborhoods, the proliferation of such counterfeit drugs has put the Latino community at risk. Siokey Gastelum-Galves, marketing director of Fortis Networks Inc. of Phoenix, said, “As a Hispanic-owned business, we hire from within the community. We cannot afford to have our employees be made ill by the yerberias.”

This was not a “victimless crime,” said Louie Garcia, Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent in charge. He added that such medicines have ingredients that could be harmful.

New law to prosecute purveyors of misbranded pharmaceuticals

Phoenix police officer James Holmes said that law enforcement agencies became aware of such a racket two years ago. However, they were unable to take any action because there was no law in Arizona to prosecute those involved in the illegal drug trade.

Holmes said, “We had an issue that we weren’t allowed to go into these locations and look for these drugs that cause great harm to the community. They were able to sell counterfeit and dangerous items to people as they came into the shops. Many of them were acting as if they were doctors. This is incredibly dangerous to our community.”

However, in July 1015, House Bill 2322 was passed into a law by the Arizona Legislature that allowed law enforcement agencies to arraign the perpetrators of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Sponsored by State Rep. Jeff Weninger, R-Chandler, the law also increased the penalties for buying and selling such medications.

De-addiction is important to lead a sober life

The use of counterfeit medicines has seen a steep rise due to its increasing demand. If people start abstaining from them, their demand will lower and the stores selling them will not be able to run openly in the market.

So, if you or your loved one is addicted to drugs, seek treatment immediately since they can cause adverse impact on the mental and physical health. Call the Phoenix Drug Treatment and Rehab Center at 480-696-5152 to find out about the best treatments for drug addiction. You may also chat online with our representatives for more information.

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