Dominican citizen extradited to U.S. for drug trafficking through sham internet pharmacy
New York, NY – Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) New Jersey Division, Susan A. Gibson, Acting U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, and the Inspector in Charge of the New Jersey Office of the Unites States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), James Buthorn, announced today that Jose Francisco Guzman-Cabrera, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, was extradited yesterday from the Dominican Republic.
Guzman-Cabrera is charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, the fentanyl analogue p-fluoroisobutyryl fentanyl, and the synthetic opioid U-47700, distribution of controlled substances over the Internet, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in connection with a large-scale drug distribution operation purporting to be an online pharmacy. Guzman-Cabrera was arrested on July 3, 2020, in the Dominican Republic, and was presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge James L. Cott.
DEA Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson said: “This investigation reinforces the dangers of purchasing narcotics through the internet. Mr. Guzman-Cabrera may have felt he was safe allegedly operating his drug trafficking organization from a foreign country, but great investigative work led to his arrest and extradition to the United States to face justice.
Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, Jose Francisco Guzman-Cabrera was the kingpin of a drug trafficking organization that distributed dangerous opioids to individuals throughout the United States through a website purporting to be an online pharmacy. Thanks to the outstanding investigative work of the DEA and USPIS, Guzman-Cabrera is now in United States custody and facing prosecution in this District.
USPIS Inspector in Charge James Buthorn: “As alleged, Guzman-Cabrera put citizens across the United States in harm’s way through his criminal syndicate, intentionally disregarding people’s safety. No border will stop the United States Postal Inspection Service from bringing alleged criminals like Guzman-Cabrera to justice. We are proud of our partnerships both domestic and international, as well as our technological and analytical advancements in the recent years that are bringing positive results, making cases like this possible. Illicit narcotics traffickers, utilizing the open web or dark web, should know we are coming for you. I would also like to stress to the public the need to research your online pharmaceutical vendors, ensuring the medicines you order are safe. I commend the agents and inspectors on the successful outcome of this case.
Law enforcement agents began investigating an online pharmacy website (the “Pharmacy Website”) following an overdose death of a victim in Boise, Idaho, on or about March 17, 2017, whose death was caused by elevated levels of multiple prescription opioids as well as fentanyl. The victim’s computer showed that he had repeatedly ordered painkillers from the Pharmacy Website, paying thousands of dollars for these drugs. The subsequent investigation revealed that the Pharmacy Website was selling pills to customers located throughout the United States, and that Guzman-Cabrera led the drug trafficking organization that operated the Pharmacy Website. In the course of the investigation, undercover law enforcement agents conducted multiple purchases of controlled substances from the Pharmacy Website. The substances purchased by undercover law enforcement agents included oxycodone and hydrocodone.
The investigation has revealed that in some cases, customers purchased what they believed to be prescription drugs such as alprazolam or oxycodone from the Pharmacy Website, but instead received pills containing other substances. In 2018, law enforcement agents searched a residence in New Jersey that the Pharmacy Website used as a distribution center, and seized approximately 100,000 pills, including pills containing the fentanyl analogue p-fluoroisobutyryl fentanyl and pills U-47700, both of which are powerful synthetic opioids that have no recognized medical use in the United States.
Guzman-Cabrera, who was based in the Dominican Republic, coordinated the purchase of pills and tablets from sources overseas, and shipped these drugs to co-conspirators who operated drug distribution centers located in the United States. After customers placed orders for drugs on the Pharmacy Website, Guzman-Cabrera directed his co-conspirators to mail the drugs to these customers. The drug trafficking organization then sent the proceeds from the sales, totaling millions of dollars, from the United States to the Dominican Republic through a variety of means, including money remitters, money couriers, and wire transfers between United States and Dominican Republic-based shell company bank accounts.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s New Jersey Division, its Boise Division, and its Santo Domingo Country Office, and the USPIS. She also thanked the Dominican Government’s National Directorate for Drug Control (DNCD) and the United States Marshals Service for their assistance in the case, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division for its significant assistance in securing the defendant’s extradition from the Dominican Republic.