LOS ANGELES — A foreign physician suspected of being a large-scale supplier of phony erectile dysfunction drugs to distributors in California, Texas and Europe faces up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges stemming from a long-term probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Robin Han, 43, a New Zealand citizen who resided in China prior to his arrest earlier this year, pleaded guilty Thursday morning to three criminal counts that could also result in a fine of up to $6 million. Han's sentencing is set for Oct. 4 before U.S. District Judge George Wu. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
"Trafficking in counterfeit prescription drugs of any kind represents a serious threat to public safety," said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. "The Department of Justice will continue to work with all of its law enforcement partners — at both the federal and local levels — to help secure federal convictions that should send a strong message to international counterfeiters like Mr. Han."
Han was originally indicted in December 2007, but remained at large until March 29. He was taken into custody at San Francisco International Airport following his arrival on a flight from Hong Kong. Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detained Han after determining he was the subject of an international law enforcement lookout. Subsequently, Han was transferred to Los Angeles where he has remained in federal custody ever since.
"The challenge in intellectual property investigations is that large-scale suppliers like Han are typically based overseas," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "But as this case clearly demonstrates, these defendants are not beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement. We owe it to consumers to pursue these cases vigorously given the significant public safety risks posed by these counterfeit medications."
The HSI probe targeting Han began in 2006 after CBP officers at a mail facility in northern California intercepted a parcel shipped from China that contained counterfeit Cialis tablets and phony Cialis packaging. The ensuing investigation identified Han as the sender.
According to the case indictment, Han advertised the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals on a number of websites, including alibaba.com. During the course of the probe, HSI special agents made undercover buys of some 20,000 counterfeit Viagra, Cialis and Levitra tablets with an estimated retail value of approximately $200,000. On the parcels Han shipped to the undercover special agents, the packing slips falsely claimed the contents were plastic stationery holders and pen boxes.
HSI, CBP and the Department of Justice are working together to combat intellectual property crimes. In fiscal year 2011, HSI and CBP made nearly 25,000 seizures involving counterfeited and pirated products, a 24 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2010.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products. HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off our streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind such illicit activity.
The HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) is one of the U.S. government's key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. The IPR Center uses the expertise of its 21 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions, and conduct investigations related to IP theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public's health and safety, the U.S. economy and the war fighters.