California Man, Justin Ash Sentenced to Prison for Misbranding and Smuggling Conspiracy Involving Online Sale and Distribution of Unapproved Drugs Obtained from Overseas
PITTSBURGH, PA (STL.News) A resident of Murrieta, California, was sentenced yesterday in federal court for one count of conspiracy to smuggle misbranded drugs into the United States and introduce them into interstate commerce, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab sentenced Justin Ash, 37, to 24 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. Ash was also ordered to forfeit a total of approximately $780,000.
During his plea hearing on January 16, 2020, Ash admitted that between January 2016 and May 8, 2018, he engaged in a conspiracy to obtain unapproved drugs in bulk quantities from overseas suppliers, including suppliers in China, for the purpose of pressing the drugs into pills and distributing them to customers throughout the United States via his internet-based business Domestic RCS. Ash’s website, http://www.domesticrcs.com, advertised multiple unapproved or “misbranded” drugs—clonazolam, diclazepam, flubromazolam, and etizolam—each of which was a non-prescription benzodiazepine or substance with a similar chemical composition.
As Ash further acknowledged, these substances carried risks of dependency, toxicity, and even fatal overdose, particularly when combined with other central nervous system depressants. Although his website and the packaging contained in his shipments indicated that the substances were for “research purposes only,” Ash admitted that he was aware that the vast majority of his customers purchased the drugs for individual consumption. Indeed, Ash or others acting at his direction communicated directly with individual customers about, among other things, the effects of the drugs when used for personal consumption. In an effort to evade detection by United States federal authorities, including the United States Food and Drug Administration, United States Postal Inspection Service, and United States Customs and Border Protection, Ash also admitted that he caused his overseas suppliers to ship drugs to multiple addresses under his control and in smaller quantities that would draw less government scrutiny.
Assistant United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan prosecuted this case on behalf of the government. The United States Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation leading to the conviction in this case.