Companies in the Spotlight: UPS

UPS and Illegal Presciption Drugs

Today the DEA announced that UPS agreed to forfeit forty million dollars in a non-prosecution agreement offered by federal prosecutors. According to the press release (below) DEA obtained UPS’s full cooperation with the investigation.  However, UPS was allegedly on notice of the fact that it was being used to facilitate illegal prescription drug trafficking for at least five years.  In the past, Google has been penalized for its role in the marketing of illicit overseas drugs to American consumers via “Google adwords.” Some of those words are what many poor souls spend most of their waking energy in pursuit of: Percocet and Oxycontin. If you are unaware of what has been going on, thousands of American prescription pill addicts have been buying drugs online and having them shipped via UPS to the States. With Google and now UPS having been hit with steep financial disincentives for playing a role in this illegal marketplace, will it dry up?  Was Fedex investigated? American businesses have long profited from addiction.  Apparently, so has UPS.

 Press Release

DEA NEWS: UPS AGREES TO FORFEIT $40 MILLION

IN PAYMENTS FROM ILLICIT ONLINE PHARMACIES FOR SHIPPING SERVICES

SAN FRANCISCO – The Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that United Parcel Service, Inc. (“UPS”) and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California (“USAO-NDCA”) entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement (“NPA”) today in which UPS agreed to forfeit $40 million in payments it has received from illicit online pharmacies and to implement a compliance program designed to ensure that illegal online pharmacies will not be able to use UPS’s services to distribute drugs.

UPS has cooperated fully with the investigation and has already taken steps to ensure that illegal Internet pharmacies can no longer use its services to ship drugs. These voluntary improvements will be strengthened by the compliance program UPS will implement as a condition of this NPA.

“DEA is aggressively targeting the diversion of controlled substances, as well as those who facilitate their unlawful distribution,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “This investigation is significant and DEA applauds UPS for working to strengthen and enhance its practices in order to prevent future drug diversion.”

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag commented: “We are pleased with the steps UPS has taken to stop the use of its shipping services by illegal on-line pharmacies. Good corporate citizens like UPS play an important role in halting the flow of illegal drugs that degrade our nation’s communities. We are hopeful that the leadership displayed by UPS through this compliance program will set the standard for the parcel delivery industry and will materially assist the federal government in its battle against illegal Internet pharmacies.”

From 2003 through 2010, UPS was on notice, through some of its employees, that Internet pharmacies were using its services to distribute controlled substances and prescription drugs without valid prescriptions in violation of the law. Internet pharmacies operate illegally when they distribute controlled substances and prescription drugs that are not supported by valid prescriptions. A prescription based solely on a customer’s completion of an on-line questionnaire is not valid. Despite being on notice that this activity was occurring, UPS did not implement procedures to close the shipping accounts of Internet pharmacies.

John Roth, Director of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations added: “The results of this investigation will prompt a significant transformation of illicit internet pharmacy shipping and distribution practices, limiting the chances of potentially unapproved, counterfeit or otherwise unsafe prescription medications from reaching U.S. consumers. The FDA is hopeful that the positive actions taken by UPS in this case will send a message to other shipping firms to put public health and safety above profits.”

Kirstin M. Ault is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Legal Technician Rawaty Yim. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Financial Investigative Team of the DEA, with the assistance of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations. This investigation is part of USAO-NDCA’s Health Care Fraud program and was initiated as an investigation with the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force. Substantial assistance was provided by the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy.

UPS has cooperated fully with the investigation and has already taken steps to ensure that illegal Internet pharmacies can no longer use its services to ship drugs. These voluntary improvements will be strengthened by the compliance program UPS will implement as a condition of this NPA.

“DEA is aggressively targeting the diversion of controlled substances, as well as those who facilitate their unlawful distribution,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “This investigation is significant and DEA applauds UPS for working to strengthen and enhance its practices in order to prevent future drug diversion.”

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Melinda Haag commented: “We are pleased with the steps UPS has taken to stop the use of its shipping services by illegal on-line pharmacies. Good corporate citizens like UPS play an important role in halting the flow of illegal drugs that degrade our nation’s communities. We are hopeful that the leadership displayed by UPS through this compliance program will set the standard for the parcel delivery industry and will materially assist the federal government in its battle against illegal Internet pharmacies.”

From 2003 through 2010, UPS was on notice, through some of its employees, that Internet pharmacies were using its services to distribute controlled substances and prescription drugs without valid prescriptions in violation of the law. Internet pharmacies operate illegally when they distribute controlled substances and prescription drugs that are not supported by valid prescriptions. A prescription based solely on a customer’s completion of an on-line questionnaire is not valid. Despite being on notice that this activity was occurring, UPS did not implement procedures to close the shipping accounts of Internet pharmacies.

John Roth, Director of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations added: “The results of this investigation will prompt a significant transformation of illicit internet pharmacy shipping and distribution practices, limiting the chances of potentially unapproved, counterfeit or otherwise unsafe prescription medications from reaching U.S. consumers. The FDA is hopeful that the positive actions taken by UPS in this case will send a message to other shipping firms to put public health and safety above profits.”

Kirstin M. Ault is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Legal Technician Rawaty Yim. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Financial Investigative Team of the DEA, with the assistance of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations. This investigation is part of USAO-NDCA’s Health Care Fraud program and was initiated as an investigation with the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force. Substantial assistance was provided by the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy.

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