Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 07, 2017 8:0AM

Two New Ipswich residents have pleaded guilty to charges that they conspired to distribute misbranded drugs obtained from India.

John E. Hayes, 53, and his wife, Plabplueng Hayes, 50, both pleaded guilty to conspiring to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, according to United States Attorney John J. Farley in a press release issued by U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.

“The importation and sale of misbranded drugs presents a serious threat to the community,” said Farley in Tuesday’s press release. “Consumers who purchase such drugs cannot be confident that the products that they are using have been manufactured under appropriate and sanitary conditions. Ingesting such pills can lead to unexpected and dangerous consequences.”

The two conspired with an unindicted co-conspirator in India, according to court statements and documents. John Hayes’ brother and sister-in-law, James and Shannon Hayes, would receive shipments from India, as many as five times a week, amounting to hundreds of thousands of pills, in North Carolina. Those pills were then sold.

James and Shannon Hayes have each also pleaded guilty to related charges in North Carolina, according to the press release.

The United States Customs and Border Protection seized more than 60 shipments, containing more than 100,000 pills from India addressed to John Hayes, bound for both his home address and multiple Post Office boxes in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The pills were in blister packs, without retail packaging, and no directions about what the drugs were intended to be used for or warnings about side-effects. Testing showed that thousands of the pills were prescription drugs and considered controlled substances.

“Sending illegal prescription drugs into the U.S. marketplace puts consumers’ health at risk,” said Jeffrey J. Ebersole, Special Agent in Charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ New York Field Office. “We will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who jeopardize the public’s health.”

An email account used by both John and Plabpueng Hayes was also used to send more than 5,000 packages to locations throughout the country, between February 2012 and September 2013. That account was also used to confirm the receipt of the drug packages, and to track customer orders for the pills and coordinate payments.

Customs and Border Protection notified John Hayes of the seizures, citing that the drugs were imported contrary to federal regulations that prohibit importing controlled substances outside of the authorization of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A search of the Hayes’ residence in New Ipswich resulted in the seizure of more than 100,000 pills, including controlled prescriptions, shipping labels and containers, and documents including letters from the Food and Drug Administration informing John Hayes’ that tramadol tablets shipped to him were being refused entry to the United States because the drugs appeared to be unapproved and misbranded.

Plabplueng Hayes will be sentenced on Nov. 28, and John Hayes will be sentenced on Dec. 12.

This case was investigated by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Arnold Huftalen and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Hawkins, who is Senior Counsel, Office of Chief Counsel, U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.