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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

L.A. Cracks Down|on Prescription Drugs

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles on Thursday announced a crackdown on sales of prescription drugs traded at swap meets and neighborhood stores to poor people and immigrants without healthcare plans.

City Attorney Mike Feuer announced criminal charges against nine unlicensed people for selling illegal pharmaceuticals.

Feuer said he expected more prosecutions in the coming weeks.

Ten of thousands of pills had been confiscated, he said.

"These illegal operations target many of our most vulnerable people," Feuer said "They target senior citizens, kids, and members of immigrant communities."

At a press conference in City Hall, Feuer spoke alongside Health Authority Law Enforcement Taskforce pharmacist Brian Wong and Eric Aguilar with L.A. County Health Services.

They detailed an ongoing effort to wipe out the sale of unregulated medications, which include Chinese knockoffs.

Authorities have confiscated antibiotics, steroids, diet pills, diuretics, placebos and silicone for body enhancements.

None of the confiscated drugs can legally be sold in the United States, the city attorney said.

A table in the corner of the conference room was stacked with multicolored packets, pills and boxes seized after raids.

That was just a small sampling. Wong said that tons of seized drugs had been boxed and stored in warehouses.

Deputy City Attorney Travis Austin filed criminal charges against five people involved in the unlicensed sale of dangerous drugs.

Among those named, Maria Bonilla faces up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Ana Bahena faces up to two years in county jail and a $10,000 fine.

Feuer said that the distribution of the illicit medications is a "global" concern.

"Interpol reports that there's a meaningful increase in the manufacture and distribution of illegal pharmaceuticals. The fight against illegal pharmaceuticals is crucial if we're going to protect public health," Feuer said.

Feuer said his office has no data on how many deaths or injuries have occurred from the illegal medications. But he said that enforcement should be preventative.

"One of my most important goals for this office is not to be reactive to such an incident but to preempt the problem, rather than waiting until someone has died in order to finally react," Feuer said. "We can be better than that."

Officials said the drugs come from China, El Salvador, Mexico and India and elsewhere, and are mailed or smuggled across the U.S.-Mexican border.

Feuer said profits for unlicensed sellers vary, depending on the drug. But they are significant.

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