A Marina del Rey woman was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents late last month after allegedly advertising human growth hormone, counterfeit Botox and “generic” Restylane for sale over the Internet to spas across the country, authorities said.
Rana J. Hunter, 60, was arrested Friday, July 25th, at her Marina del Rey apartment. She appeared in federal court July 28th on a criminal complaint stemming from her alleged role in a scheme to sell the products to spas across the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
Hunter has been charged with one count of illegally selling human growth hormone. She was released on $65,000 bond pending trial.
If convicted, Hunter faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The investigation leading to Hunter’s arrest began in March last year after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Los Angeles received a lead from the agency’s Cyber Crimes Center in Virginia.
According to the affidavit filed in the case, Hunter operated a business called Westgate Distributors which offered human growth hormone, Botox, and “generic” Restylane for sale over the Internet. Investigators determined that some of the business’s buyers were located as far away as Arkansas.
According to the case affidavit, during the ensuing probe, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted numerous packages containing vials of the growth hormone and counterfeit Botox from China that were addressed to the Marina del Rey mailbox listed on the Internet as Westgate’s business address. The parcels were mislabeled as synthetic hair pieces, plastic molds and “sample iron oxide,” according to the affidavit.
Within the last two months, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement undercover agent, posing as a supplier for clinics and spas, contacted the phone number listed for Westgate on the Internet. As described in the affidavit, the undercover agent ultimately made two purchases, including multiple vials of a growth hormone and a substance purported to be Botox, along with syringes and needles.
A subsequent laboratory analysis revealed the growth hormone was genuine, but the substance being sold as Botox contained no evidence of the botu- linum toxin, the affidavit states.
“The illegal sale of health and pharmaceutical products over the Internet poses a serious risk to Americans who mistakenly assume these substances are safe,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations in Los Angeles.
“What’s more, unscrupulous providers who buy these products and resell them are potentially putting their unwitting clients in harm’s way.”
Kevin Weeks, director of the Customs and Border Protection Los Angeles Office of Field Operations, added, “Our enforcement actions continue to pay off — we have an ongoing commitment that is focused towards intercepting commodities which may pose health and safety risks before they reach the consumer.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents underscore that the probe is ongoing. The agency was assisted in the investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspections Service; the Food and Drug Administration Office of Criminal Investigations; and the Social Security Administration Office of Criminal Investigations.
The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.