Two people have been charged with illegally importing and selling foreign drugs and pharmaceuticals in Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles.
The charges, announced by City Attorney Mike Feuer on Wednesday, Aug. 21, were part of a wider crackdown on eight individuals selling at locations across the city. Altogether authorities seized more than 100,000 pharmaceutical drugs, including injectable treatments, pills, antibiotics and other substances.
“We allege, they sold them on street corners, in front of supermarkets, in front of travel agencies, beauty salons and parks, primarily to Latino customers,” Feuer said.
In most instances the drugs were being sold at prices lower than those charged in pharmacies, Feuer said. The suspects ranged from 28-74 years in age, and according to Feuer’s office, none were licensed medical providers.
The dealers were uncovered through a variety of operations, including undercover work, and some investigations are ongoing. All eight defendants are scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 12.
Those charged include Bryan Pineda, 28, and Maria Vences-Tinoco, 50. They were arrested for selling drugs in Skid Row. No specific locations were revealed.
Other suspects were operating in North Hollywood, Koreatown and MacArthur Park. All eight were taken into custody in April and May, according to Heidi Matz, a deputy city attorney. Some of those charged were associated with one another, but not all, Matz said.
The drugs authorities recovered had not been approved for sale in the United States by the federal government, Matz said.
“The sellers often attempt to sell medications a consumer might expect to find at a pharmacy or licensed location,” Feuer said. “Don’t be fooled by what appears to be a lower cost at the outset, because the ultimate price might be your health.”
Since the drugs were not approved for use in the United States, and because the dealers were not licensed to distribute them, a severe health risk was involved, according to Brian Wong, a pharmacist with the Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency group. He said that was particularly the case with the injectable drugs seized, many of which are used for back pain or bone infections. Wong said that the injectables come with a risk of injecting contaminants into the body.