HomeNewsBriefArgentina Dismantles Pill Ring That Sold Opioids To US Customers
BRIEF

Argentina Dismantles Pill Ring That Sold Opioids To US Customers

ARGENTINA / 19 MAR 2019 BY JOSEFINA SALOMÓN EN

Authorities in Argentina have dismantled an intricate organization illegally selling opioids and counterfeit medicines online to US customers, revealing a number of legal loopholes exploited by these criminal groups.

The organization, which mainly operated from Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, illegally sold opioids without prescriptions -- as well as counterfeit medicines from Romania and India -- through its website named Goldpharma. The drugs were bought by US customers, and, more recently, by local clients.

A two year investigation into the pill ring by Argentine security agencies and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) ended after a March 13 operation. Five people were arrested and charged with a number of drug crimes related to importing and distributing controlled substances, including oxycodone, according to the US Justice Department.

Authorities also seized some $400,000, 2 million Argentine pesos (around $49,000) and an undisclosed amount of cash in various currencies. More than half a dozen luxury cars and 100 credit cards were also taken by authorities. In addition, the men had bank accounts in Panama and Belize, where they were said to have deposited and laundered the profits from the illegal pill sales.

SEE MORE: Argentina News and Profile

The pharmacy took in between $8 million and $16 million per year, according to one of the chief police officers in charge of the investigation.

It is illegal to import prescription medicines and controlled substances from outside the United States. Selling medicines online is prohibited in Argentina.

InSight Crime Analysis

The dismantling of the organization running Goldpharma shows a criminal group developing a sophisticated network to take advantage of the demand for opioids in the United States after officials there severely reduced access to prescription forms of the drugs. It also underscores how Argentina largely turns a blind eye to money laundering.

“This is not a small time organization. If they would have used their intellect for good, they would have a lot of power,” Marcelo D’Alessandro, Secretary of Justice and Security for the City of Buenos Aires, said during a press conference in Buenos Aires when the arrests were announced.

Demand for opioids in the United States has increased nearly 10 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Opioids -- which include prescription drugs like oxycodone, the synthetic drug fentanyl, and heroin -- were largely responsible for the record 70,237 overdose deaths recorded in the US in 2017.

The US Food and Drug Administration's commissioner warned of a crack down on illegal online pharmacies last year, saying that the Internet is "virtually awash in illegal narcotics."

In Argentina, it is estimated that about 11 percent of medicines consumed are illegally bought online, according to the National Union of Pharmacists (Sindicato Argentino de Farmacéuticos y Bioquímicos - SAFYB).

But the criminal group behind Goldpharma made a fatal error which likely ultimately led to  its demise. They underestimated growing ties between authorities in the United States and Argentina, particularly in fighting criminal organizations and drug trafficking.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CONTRABAND / 16 DEC 2019

Authorities have uncovered that an eastern coastal region of Guatemala, known to be a cocaine corridor, has been used in…

ARGENTINA / 29 JUN 2021

While the underworld in Rosario, Argentina, is dominated by large criminal groups like the Monos, a lower-profile group carved out…

CONTRABAND / 19 JUL 2012

A new government strategy to counter gas smuggling in the Venezuelan border state of Zulia has created a fierce backlash…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…