Monday, February 13, 2017

Owner of Four Illegal Online Pharmacies Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison


In late May 2014 U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan announced that a federal grand jury in the Western District of Washington indicted seven people for illegally distributing narcotics through an online pharmacy. The group, according to the indictment, sold $9,000,000 worth of controlled substances to patients without a prescription. On January 26, 2016, U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes announced the sentencing of the final member of the group, Juan Gallinal, who started and built the online business. A district judge sentenced the ringleader, a former police officer in Virginia, to eight years in prison.


What started as a legitimate brick and mortar pharmacy, District Judge Richard A. Jones said, became a massive online “pill mill,” that spread addiction across the country. Judge Jones highlighted that during Gallinal’s time as a police officer, Gallinal saw the damage opioid addiction caused this country, yet sold opioids anyway. Even worse, the judge said, was that many buyers, if not all, used expired prescriptions—if they even had a prescription.

“This defendant is one of the ‘founding fathers’ of this internet pharmacy business that exploited the drug addiction of people across the country for his own gain,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said. “Using a sham owner, shell corporations and databases hidden on a server in Switzerland, Mr. Gallinal tried to hide his business and his role from the law. I commend the Drug Enforcement Administration for their diligent work on this case that led to the shuttering of this criminal operation.”

The group sold through “Discount Pharmacy” and “A-1 Pharmacy,” to sell “hundreds of thousands” hydrocodone pills, alprazolam pills, and codeine pills (know as T4) to 200 customers in 2009. During the four-year operation, Gallinal used four websites to illegally distribute the drugs mentioned above. The 2014 Grand Jury Indictment mentioned one additional site: www.frontierpharmacies.com. The website for Frontier Pharmacies intentionally catered to Washington residents, the indictment explained. (Author note: online pharmacies are not the same as darknet marketplaces, nor is an online pharmacy a proper substitute for a darknet marketplace).

The group, led by Gallinal, used information from doctors in the area to fill fake prescriptions. Often times, according to the indictment, Gallinal looked for doctors in the area with a name similar to the doctor’s name on the customer’s expired prescription. He then used that doctors name and DEA number to fill a patient’s expired prescriptions.

In 2012, the DEA raided the group’s base of operations and seized their servers, computers, and other electronic devices. Since then, the co-defendants already pleaded guilty to some of the charges in the indictment. They also received their sentences. Gallinal, the founder, wanted so long for sentencing based on the number of charges he pleaded guilty to in 2015: every charge in the indictment. While the co-defendants pleaded guilty to between one and four charges, based on their individual roles in the operation, Gallinal admitted his guilt in six out of six charges. 

Gallinal received eight years in prison. His employees, at most, received 60-month prison sentences. Judge Richard A. Jones ended on a note of distaste by saying, to the defendant, that he started the “web of deceit and greed.” He went on, talking directly to Gallinal, “You were the orchestrator, conductor, composer and chief engineer making this engine run.” In addition to the prison sentence, the judge ordered the ex-police officer to forfeit $1,900,000.

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