FLORIDA — A Florida man has been arrested for allegedly distributing more than $230 million in adulterated HIV drugs that were ultimately dispensed to unsuspecting patients throughout the country, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
According to an indictment unsealed on June 17, Lazaro Hernandez, 51, of Miami, was allegedly part of a nationwide scheme to defraud the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and illegally distribute more than $230 million in adulterated and misbranded prescription drugs that were dispensed to unsuspecting patients, the DOJ said.
As alleged in the indictment, Hernandez acquired large quantities of HIV medication illegally and then created false drug labeling and other documentation to make it appear as though these high-priced drugs had been obtained legitimately.
To carry out the scheme, Hernandez and co-conspirators are alleged to have established licensed wholesale drug distribution companies in Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. Hernandez and his co-conspirators used those companies to sell the adulterated drugs at steep discounts to other co-conspirators at wholesale pharmaceutical distributors in Mississippi, Maryland, and New York, the DOJ said.
According to the DOJ, the wholesale pharmaceutical distributors then resold the drugs to pharmacies throughout the country, which billed the drugs to health insurers, including Medicare, and dispensed the adulterated and misbranded HIV medication to unsuspecting patients.
As alleged in the indictment, between approximately 2019 and 2021, the wholesale pharmaceutical distributors paid Hernandez and his co-conspirators more than $230 million for the illegally acquired and adulterated prescription drugs.
Hernandez allegedly laundered those hundreds of millions of dollars using several corporations in Miami.
Hernandez is charged with conspiracy to deliver into interstate commerce adulterated and misbranded drugs, conspiracy to traffic in medical products with false documentation, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and specific money laundering offenses, the DOJ said.
If convicted of all counts, he faces a maximum total penalty of more than 100 years in prison.
According to the DOJ, the defendant was also charged in a separate, superseding indictment that was returned by a grand jury in Miami on June 14.
Hernandez is scheduled to make his initial court appearance in both cases today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida, Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and Special Agent in Charge Kyle A. Myles of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), Atlanta Region, made the announcement.
HHS-OIG and FDIC-OIG are investigating the case.
Trial attorney Alexander Thor Pogozelski of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy James Abraham of the Southern District of Florida are prosecuting the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Stone is handling forfeiture.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.