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Counterfeit med retailers raided

Federal and state law enforcement authorities served search warrants at 27 convenience stores and Hispanic grocery stores this morning, where they seized counterfeit prescription medications.

At a press conference in his office, Attorney General Jim Hood said one arrest was made and counterfeit antibiotics, steroids and birth control was seized, along with other prescription medications. The name of the person arrested and the charge(s) he or she will face was not disclosed.

The 27 locations raided were scattered across the state. They were primarily bodegas, or Hispanic grocery stores, that sold the fake meds.

Counterfeit prescription meds that are smuggled into the U.S. are a growing problem, said Ray Parmer, special agent in charge of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations Office in New Orleans.

Since 2008, the number of intellectual theft cases Parmer’s office has investigated has grown by 38 percent. Theft cases have centered on counterfeit medications, counterfeit toothpaste laced with antifreeze, tainted animal food, counterfeit automobile airbags and counterfeit aircraft parts.

“These cases rob Americans of jobs, fuel organized crime and create public safety hazards,” Parmer said.

Hood added that much of the counterfeit trade business is subsidized by the illegal drug trade.

Thursday morning’s searches and arrest were the result of a nine-month investigation that included officials from Hood’s office, the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, the Food and Drug Administration, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and the Mississippi State Pharmacy Board.

Parmer said undercover agents made 78 purchases of counterfeit meds at the raided locations over that nine-month period.

“This stuff is dangerous,” Hood said. “None of these are legitimate prescription drugs. You just go in and buy them over the counter.”

The joint task force was funded by a $100,000 federal grant, and Mississippi was the only recipient of the money, Hood said. Another $100,000 grant was just awarded that will fund a website that will assist law enforcement officials and consumers in determining the difference in legitimate and counterfeit prescription medications and other fake goods.

Hood added that he expects more arrests related to the investigation.

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