A Marina del Rey woman has been convicted of smuggling Human Growth Hormone (HGH) into the United States and then selling it over the Internet to doctors and spas across the country.
A federal jury convicted Rana J. Hunter, 61, Thursday, October 29th on eight criminal counts, including two counts of smuggling goods into the United States and two counts of knowingly distributing HGH for a use unauthorized by law, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The remaining criminal counts involved identify theft.
Investigators determined some of Hunter’s customers were located as far away as Arkansas. According to investigators, Hunter used stolen identities to further her Internet sales scheme.
She obtained some of the stolen identities from newspaper obituaries and one of the identities belonged to a deceased Los Angeles Superior Court judge, according to ICE.
Hunter has been in custody since her arrest in July 2008.
The case is the result of an investigation involving ICE; the Food and Drug Administration-Office of Criminal Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Postal Inspections Service’s Identity Theft and Economic Crime Task Force; and the Social Security Administration-Office of Criminal Investigations.
In addition to illegally importing and distributing HGH, evidence presented during the trial indicated Hunter’s business, Westgate Distributors, also claimed to offer Botulinum toxin type A, also known as Botox, a spokesman for ICE said.
The case investigation began in March 2007 after ICE agents in Los Angeles received a lead from the agency’s Cyber Crimes Center in Virginia.
“This conviction should serve as a sobering reminder about the consequences facing those who illegally sell health and pharmaceutical products over the Internet,” said Miguel Unzueta, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles. “These activities potentially pose a serious safety risk to American consumers, who mistakenly assume the substances are safe.”
Food and Drug Administration investigators are following up on leads regarding more than a dozen medical doctors and spa operators that may have purchased goods from Hunter’s business. Another investigation into the related identify theft scheme is also ongoing.
Hunter faces a maximum penalty of 39 years in prison when she is sentenced February 8th. The aggravated identity theft charges carry a mandatory two-year sentence.