GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (FOX 2) – A Troy man was among five suspects arrested and charged in a drug smuggling ring that attempted to sneak prescription drugs into the U.S. and distribute them in west Michigan.
Federal investigators said they tracked at least $12 million in proceeds to the scheme, which would be paid for through cryptocurrencies or other digital payment applications. From there, the funds were laundered to accounts linked to one of the suspects. The funds would then be converted to the co-conspirators.
Joshua Ford, an active member of the body building community in Troy was among four of the defendants that were arraigned in the Western District of Michigan on March 10 on charges of conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the U.S.
Ford, along with individuals from Colorado, Georgia, Florida face five-year prison sentences and fines up to $250,000 for the smuggling charges. Two men, Brendon Gagne of Fountain, Colorado and James Funaro of Atlanta, Georgia also face charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The suspects allegedly used websites such as www.ExpressPCT.com and www.ExpressPEDS.ws to advertise the sale of prescription drugs. Those looking to purchase the drugs would then be taken to another website that provided customers with various methods of paying for the products.
MORE: 16 people from Michigan and Ohio sentenced for 11-year 'pill mill' scheme
The men will be back in court in front of Western District Michigan court on March 21.
According to a filing from the U.S. Department of Justice, the websites advertising the sale of the drugs broke down the products into four categories based on where they were shipped from. That included a section titled "USA Products" which offered three-day shipping to the country.
Many of the drugs that were offered were used to treat the short-term effects of steroids.
Most of the drugs were manufactured outside the U.S. before they were shipped in bulk using false statements that wrongly declared what was inside the packages.
Once the drugs arrived in the U.S., individual distributors would break down the shipments further, then send them to other distributors around the U.S.
From there, the drugs were re-packaged and sent to the customer who placed the original order.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were one form of payment that was used. Other networks like Zelle and Cash App were also accepted.
Customers that ordered the drugs were told to not include any words, names, or information relating to the purchase when they made the payment.
The money eventually made it to accounts owned by Funaro. From there, the money was then converted to cryptocurrency which was moved to accounts held by foreign nationals that lived overseas.
Co-conspirators used the final step to pay the suppliers of the prescription drugs to keep the products moving.
The DOJ filing said one of the websites that was used in the scheme was established in September 2018. It explicitly advertised the sale of prescription drugs without requiring the purchasers to produce a written prescription.
Another website used for the sale of drugs and anabolic steroids advertised a similar offer when it was established in March 2020.
Between those dates, suspect Brendon Gagne recruited other individuals to be part of the scheme.
Joshua Ford allegedly received four packages that contained bulk quantities of prescription drugs in February and March 2020.
The filing documents several other instances of the defendants receiving and re-distributing packages of drugs in 2019 and 2020.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2022 FOX Television Stations