ST. LOUIS (AP) – A Turkish citizen pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal charges for smuggling counterfeit and adulterated cancer treatment drugs into the United States.
Ozkan Semizoglu of Istanbul entered the plea in U.S. District Court in St. Louis. Sentencing is Oct. 28.
Semizoglu and a second Turkish citizen, Sabahaddin Akman, were indicted in January. Akman has pleaded not guilty. He is scheduled for trial on Sept. 2.
Federal prosecutors say the men smuggled three shipments from Turkey to Chesterfield, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb. They were arrested in Puerto Rico soon after the indictment.
According to the plea agreement, Semizoglu falsely labeled shipments of drugs as “gifts” or “documents” to conceal their identity. He shipped some prescription drugs that are supposed to be kept cold with no insulation or temperature protection, potentially limiting their stability and effectiveness, the U.S. attorney’s office in St. Louis said.
Semizoglu also sold a version of the cancer drug Altuzan to a United Kingdom drug wholesaler. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration previously seized the drug from physician customers of that wholesaler and determined that it was counterfeit, with no active drug ingredient.
Federal prosecutors have said the men were arrested after selling the drugs to an undercover company set up by FDA investigators, and none of the drugs ever reached doctors’ offices.
Semizoglu’s attorney, David Bruns, said the plea was the first step in his effort to return to his family in Turkey.
“Clearly they imported medicines that were not FDA-compliant, certainly in the packaging,” Bruns said.
Philip J. Walsky, acting director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, said in a statement that U.S. investigators and officials from abroad “worked together in partnership to help protect the public’s health and remove a potentially unsafe medication from the U.S. marketplace.”
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