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Generic Drug Maker Sentenced For Illegal Imports

Wed, 02/04/2009 - 4:35am

ATLANTA (AP) -- The owner of a Georgia pharmaceutical company was sentenced Tuesday to four years in federal prison for importing millions of dollars worth of adulterated and unauthorized products sold on the Internet.

U.S. District Judge Jack T. Camp also ordered 37-year-old Jared Robert Wheat of Alpharetta to forfeit $3 million.

Authorities said Wheat's Norcross-based Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals manufactured unauthorized generic versions of drugs such as Xanax, Valium, Ambien, Vioxx, Zoloft, Viagra and Cialis at a small plant in Belize -- essentially a four-bedroom home -- without sanitary or quality-control regulations of the Food and Drug Administration.

Four co-defendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two years to 32 months.

Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, which sells herbal products for purposes such as enhanced sex drive or weight loss, was placed on five years probation for its involvement in the scheme.

"These defendants sought to profit from unsuspecting customers who had no idea they were buying pills manufactured in highly unsanitary conditions in a Belezian house, all without FDA approval or licensing from the rightful patent holders," U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said. "We are extremely fortunate that no one was sickened or killed by these drugs."

Camp sentenced David Brady, 42, of Pinehurst, N.C., to 32 months and ordered him to forfeit $1.7 million.

Stephen Smith, 40, of Duluth, Ga., and Sergio Oliveira, 48, of Hoschton, Ga., each received 27 months, and Tomasz Holda, 45, of Duluth, 24 months.

Receiving non-custodial felony sentences were Steven Blinder, 44, of Aberdeen, S.D., David Johnson, 39, of Pinehurst, N.C., Brad Watkins, 40, of Marietta, Ga., and his brother David Watkins, 42, of Daphne, Ala.

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