The Washington Post

Federal prosecutors charge eleven with illegally importing prescription drugs

Federal prosecutors have charged 11 people — including several from the Washington area — who they say were part of an international operation that illegally imported and sold prescription drugs that were either not approved for use in the United States or not labeled according to FDA standards, authorities said Wednesday.

The scheme — which began in 2009 and lasted until June — netted more than $8.6 million in revenue for a company the group formed as it sold intravenous drugs for chemotherapy and injectable cosmetics to hospitals, doctors and medical practices across the United States, federal prosecutors said.

The company was sophisticated enough to have a force of salespeople with dedicated territories across the country, prosecutors said. But it was unlicensed, importing drugs illegally and not following FDA rules about manufacturing and packaging, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the company, Gallant Pharma International, told customers that it sold drugs from Canada, but it actually got them from India, Switzerland and Turkey. The company initially operated out of an apartment in Crystal City, and it used an office in Springfield for storage, prosecutors said.

In some cases, prosecutors said, the drugs were not manufactured or packaged according to FDA standards, and in others, they were not even approved for use in the United States. Prosecutors said some shipments were sent to the McLean-based medical practice of Anoushirvan R. Sarraf, 47, who was among those indicted, to help avoid the scrutiny of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Reached by a reporter Wednesday, Sarraf said: “I’m not charged with anything, I’m just going to the court,” before hanging up.

The group faces a list of criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit importation fraud, introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce and unlicensed medical wholesaling, prosecutors said. As of Wednesday afternoon, seven people had been arrested, one was jailed in Canada on unrelated charges and three remained at large. Prosecutors said they had obtained arrest warrants for those not in custody.

In addition to Sarraf, of Rockville, prosecutors identified those charged as Syed “Farhan” Huda, 38, of Arlington County; Deeba Mallick, 36, of Arlington; Talib Khan, 42, of Montreal and Barbados; Harvey Whitehead, 67, of Troy, Mich.; Lisa Coroniti, 46, of Devon, Pa.; Robert J. Sparks, 30, of Springfield; Munajj Rochelle, 36, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen jailed in Montreal; Robert Wachna of Ottawa; Mirwaiss Aminzada, 43, of Montreal; and Patricia Durr, 70, of Boynton Beach, Fla.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.


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