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Counterfeit Medications Pose Threat To County Residents

MADERA COUNTY – The sale of counterfeit goods, including dangerous medications, has been the focus of recent investigations and arrests in Madera County.

The District Attorney is expected to file charges as early as Monday against two men arrested by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Thursday afternoon during the execution of state search warrants at five local retailers suspected of selling counterfeit and misbranded goods, including pharmaceuticals.

Counterfeit medication - photo courtesy of Madera Co. District Attorney

Counterfeit medication – photo courtesy of Madera Co. District Attorney

ICE and Homeland Security investigators were assisted by Madera County District Attorney investigators during the operation. Along with the arrests, cease and desist orders were also served.

Nicholas Ramon Ramirez, 60, of Madera, was taken into custody at Del Valle Food, located in the 200 block of 9th Street. During a search of the store, HSI special agents recovered a large quantity of misbranded medications and pharmaceuticals, including three bottles of the powerful pain killer Tramadol, a controlled substance which can cause addiction and even death if misused.

Many of the seized pharmaceuticals were illegally imported from Mexico and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in the U.S. Some of the medications were displayed in a glass case near the checkout stand, but the majority of the pharmaceuticals were found in a storage room in the rear of the business.

Ramirez will be charged with various crimes, including a violation of Health and Safety Code section 111440, selling illegal drugs.

Also arrested during Thursday’s enforcement action was Iyad Aljaal, 42, of Madera, who was taken into custody at Casa Nova Fashion and Wireless, located in the 300 block of East Yosemite Avenue.

Investigators’ search of that location led to the seizure of more than 900 counterfeit professional sports jerseys bearing the trademarked logos for the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League. Additionally, HSI special agents also recovered belts and wallets packaged in boxes falsely bearing the Hermes brand name.

Aljaal will be charged with felony violation of Penal Code section 350(a)(2), sale of counterfeit merchandise.

boxes-of-counterfeit-products-photo-madera-co-d-a-s-office“My office and my personnel have a long history in assisting other State and County agencies in their operations, and in this case it was a privilege to help ICE and Homeland Security clear our commercial establishments of unlawful goods,” said District Attorney David Linn. “Since included in the material which we have obtained are significant amounts of pharmaceuticals, we believe that these are serious crimes which could gravely endanger the health of Madera County citizens.”

Besides the two businesses named above, HSI special agents also executed search warrants Thursday at three other locations, all located on East Yosemite Avenue – Casa Nova Fashion and Shoes, Santa Marta Botanica, and Jaliscience Jewelers.

“The trafficking of counterfeit goods poses a triple threat,” said Ryan L. Spradlin, the special agent in charge who oversees HSI operations throughout northern California. “Such activities deliver shoddy and often dangerous goods into the economy, rob Americans of good-paying jobs, and generate proceeds that are often funneled back into other criminal enterprises. HSI will continue to work with its enforcement partners to combat the distribution of counterfeit products, like those seized in Madera yesterday that could put unwitting consumers at risk.”

Thursday’s enforcement actions are part of an ongoing probe that began earlier this year after HSI received information about shipments of Chinese-made counterfeit apparel being sent to a location in the Madera area. Subsequent investigation identified additional businesses linked to the possible sale of counterfeit goods.

As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, HSI plays a leading role in targeting criminal organizations responsible for producing, smuggling and distributing counterfeit products, says the D.A.’s Office.

“HSI focuses not only on keeping counterfeit products off U.S. streets, but also on dismantling the criminal organizations behind this activity.

“Last fiscal year, HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection made more than 28,000 seizures involving counterfeit goods with an estimated value of almost $1.4 billion. The International Anti-counterfeiting Counterfeiting Coalition estimates intellectual property crime costs U.S. businesses $200 to $250 billion a year in lost revenues.

“The HSI-led Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center is one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy. Working in close coordination with the Department of Justice Task Force on Intellectual Property, the IPR Center uses the expertise of its 23 member agencies to share information, develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft. Through this strategic interagency partnership, the IPR Center protects the public’s health and safety and the U.S. economy.”

To report intellectual property theft or to learn more about the IPR Center, visit www.IPRCenter.gov, or contact the Madera County District Attorney’s Office at (559) 675-7726.

For more information on HSI’s role in the current case, contact ICE Public Affairs at (949) 360-3096 or via email virginia.c.kice@ice.dhs.gov

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