GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WILX) – Five defendants have been charged with conspiring to smuggle prescription drugs into the United States illegally, for distribution in the Western District of Michigan and elsewhere.
Friday, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birdge announced that five men have been charged in 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, Gagne 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 some controlled substances. Those sites were ExpressPCT.com and ExpressPEDS.ws.
Birge said in a release that ExpressPEDS.ws also sold anabolic-androgenic steroids.
The US government is now making the case that the drugs sold on those sites were manufactured largely, if not entirely, outside of the United States and smuggled into the country illegally to be sold to people in the United States. According to the indictment, the sites did not ask customers for prescriptions even though the drugs sold require a person to be under the supervision of a licensed practitioner.
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ExpressPCT.com accepted Bitcoin as well as alternative forms of payment, including payments sent via digital payment networks such as Zelle and Cash App.
The indictment states that, if customers elected to pay using alternative forms of payment other than cryptocurrency, co-conspirators directed payments through accounts linked to Funaro. It alleges that Funaro then converted the proceeds of the scheme into cryptocurrency before they were moved to accounts held by a group co-conspirators.
Birge alleges that group of co-conspirators included foreign nationals residing overseas.
Investigators say they have traced at least $12 million in proceeds to the drug smuggling scheme. If convicted of conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States, the defendants face a statutory maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If Gagne and Funaro are separately convicted of the money laundering conspiracy charge, they face a statutory maximum of twenty years in prison and a fine of up to either $500,000 or twice the value of the funds laundered, whichever is greater.
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