Health Care

Miami-based wholesalers are accused of selling black-market prescription drugs to pharmacies

Federal prosecutors indicted two pharmaceutical company executives, accusing them of selling prescription drugs from the black market to unwitting pharmacies and consumers. File photo.
Federal prosecutors indicted two pharmaceutical company executives, accusing them of selling prescription drugs from the black market to unwitting pharmacies and consumers. File photo.

Federal prosecutors indicted two pharmaceutical-company executives on Friday, accusing them of selling millions of dollars’ worth of prescription drugs from the black market to unwitting pharmacies and consumers as part of a scheme that operated for six months out of a Miami apartment.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said it has indicted Joshua Ryan Joles, the chief executive officer of Wholesale Supply LLC, and Mohammad Mehdi Salemi, the chief executive officer of Wholesalers Group, Inc. and Wholesalers Group LLC, as well as two bank-account holders on charges relating to money laundering, mail fraud, and violating the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Prosecutors accused Joles and Salemi of purchasing and distributing brand-name drugs acquired through an underground market. The drugs treated conditions such as mental illness, HIV, and cancer and were acquired unlawfully through fraud, pharmacy burglaries, and cargo thefts, according to the indictment.

“The allegations set forth in this scheme strike at the peace of mind we should all feel when we buy prescription drugs from a pharmacy,” said U.S. Attorney Ariana Farjardo Orshan. “We all expect and should rest assured knowing that the drugs we are buying are safe, effective, and properly stored and handled.”

Defense-lawyer information for Joles and Salemi was not immediately available. The two men have yet to appear before a federal judge.

According to the indictment, Joles and Salemi established seemingly legitimate wholesale companies and bank accounts, produced fraudulent paperwork, and professionally packaged and shipped the medicines to pharmacies.

“This investigation into a South Florida based drug diversion group spanned the entire country, from California to Puerto Rico,” said George L. Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office. “It is truly an example of multiple federal and state agencies working together with private industry to take out of circulation thousands of bottles of potentially dangerous drugs, and also disrupt a money laundering scheme that moved millions of dollars a month through South Florida.”

Joles and Salemi could not be reached for comments.

Ben Conarck is a reporter covering healthcare at the Miami Herald, which he joined in August 2019. He was previously an investigative reporter covering criminal justice at The Florida Times-Union. In 2018, he and reporter Topher Sanders recieved Columbia University’s Paul Tobenkin award for outstanding reporting on race and the University of Colorado’s Al Nakkula award for outstanding police reporting for their multi-part investigation “Walking While Black.” Conarck has also extensively covered the Florida prison system.
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