5 charged with attempted smuggling of prescription drugs into Michigan
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WILX) – Five defendants have been charged with conspiring to smuggle prescription drugs into the United States, for distribution in the Western District of Michigan and elsewhere.
On Friday, US Attorney Andrew Birdge announced that five men had been charged in connection with the investigation. They have been identified as Joshua Ford of Troy, Michigan; James Funaro of Atlanta, Georgia; Jeremy Walenty of Tampa, Florida; Taylor McLaren of Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Brendon Gagne of Fountain, Colorado.
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Two of the defendants, Gagné and Funaro, are also charged with money laundering conspiracy. Funaro alone is charged with one count of money laundering.
According to court documents, the defendants operated two websites that sold prescription drugs and certain controlled substances. These sites were ExpressPCT.com and ExpressPEDS.ws.
Birge said in a statement that ExpressPEDS.ws also sells anabolic androgenic steroids.
The US government is now arguing that the drugs sold on these sites were largely, if not entirely, manufactured outside the United States and smuggled into the country to be sold to people in the United States. According to the indictment, the sites did not ask for prescriptions from customers even though the drugs being sold require a person to be under the supervision of a licensed practitioner.
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ExpressPCT.com accepted Bitcoin as well as other forms of payment, including payments sent through digital payment networks such as Zelle and Cash App.
The indictment says that if customers chose to pay using alternative payment methods other than cryptocurrency, the co-conspirators directed payments through accounts linked to Funaro. It alleges that Funaro then converted proceeds from the scheme into cryptocurrency before it was transferred to accounts held by a group of co-conspirators.
Birge alleges that this group of co-conspirators included foreign nationals residing abroad.
Investigators say they have traced at least $12 million in revenue to the drug trafficking program. If convicted of conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States, the defendants face a legal maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If Gagne and Funaro are convicted separately of the money laundering conspiracy charge, they face a legal maximum of twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 or double the value of the funds laundered. , whichever is greater.
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