Men defrauded the government in HIV medication scheme.
The human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) consists of two species of Lentivirus that infect humans. It is a sexually transmitted infection most of the time, and can cause an often-deadly autoimmune disease, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), in which worsening failure of the immune system causes life-threatening infections to attack the body. Without treatment with HIV drugs, the average survival time is said to be 9 to 11 years depending on the exact species of the virus.
HIV is transmitted by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, including semen and vaginal discharge. Non-sexual transmission can occur from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, exposure to bodily fluids and in delivering the child. Because HIV and AIDS are so deadly, it is important for a person who is not infected to take precautions to avoid exposure. If contracted, it’s equally important for an HIV-positive person to seek proper treatment.
This is why Lazaro Hernandez’s (51, of Miami, Florida) crimes are so horrific. Hernandez has been arrested for allegedly distributing more than $230 million in adulterated HIV drugs that were then dispensed to unsuspecting patients throughout the U.S. He was indicted alongside co-conspirator 37-year-old Eladio Vega. Prosecutors say the Florida men were responsible for nationwide scheme to “defraud the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and illegally distribute…adulterated and misbranded prescription HIV drugs.”
Hernandez allegedly obtained large quantities of medication illegally, then produced fraudulent labeling and other documents to make it appear as though they had been purchased legally. He and his co-conspirators licensed wholesale drug distribution companies in Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. They then used these companies to sell the drugs at significant discounts to others at wholesale distributors in Mississippi, Maryland, and New York. The wholesale distributors often resold the drugs to pharmacies, billing them to health insurers, including Medicare. Finally, the pharmacies dispensed the tainted HIV medication to patients. In the two-year span between 2019 and 2021, the wholesale pharmaceutical distributors paid Hernandez and his co-conspirators hundreds of millions of dollars.
According to court documents, Hernandez “laundered those hundreds of millions of dollars through the use of several corporations in Miami,” leading him to ultimately be charged with “conspiracy to deliver into interstate commerce adulterated and misbranded drugs, conspiracy to traffic in medical products with false documentation, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and specific money laundering offenses.”
It is unclear whether anyone was harmed after using the misbranded drugs, but the men are not currently facing any homicide charges or charges related to physically harming recipients of the drugs. It is also unclear whether others were involved in the scheme and if they’ve been brought to justice.
If convicted of all counts, Hernandez faces a maximum penalty of more than 100 years in prison – equivalent to more than a life sentence. Separately, he was charged with not following the guidelines of his indictment that was returned by a grand jury in Miami on June 14. Hernandez is scheduled to make his initial court appearance in both cases this month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.