New Ipswich couple sentenced to federal prison for ‘pill mill’

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, April 09, 2018 5:51PM

A New Ipswich couple received federal prison sentences late last week for participating in a scheme to distribute misbranded prescription drugs from India.

John Hayes, 53, and his wife, Plabpleung “Penny” Hayes, 50, both pleaded guilty to a charge related to receiving shipments of drugs from India and redistributing them to customers across the United States.

Hayes was sentenced to 30 months in prison and is required to pay a $2,500 fine. Plabpleung was sentenced to serve a year and a day in prison.

Plabpleung faces possible deportation to Thailand after she has served her sentence, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Scott W. Murray.

The couple conspired with others, including Hayes’ brother, James Hayes, and his sister-in-law, Shannon Hayes, in North Carolina, who were receiving shipments of pills from India, according to the release.

“Mr. and Mrs. Hayes ran a dangerous operation, distributing unsafe drugs that endangered the public’s health. Their illicit pill mill was a family affair and now they are finally being held accountable,” Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Boston Division, said in the press release.

Over time, the defendants received more than 2.4 million prescription drugs from India, many of which were controlled substances. They attempted to conceal their practices by shipping the drugs that bore the address Kumar Traders, a wholesale distributor of prescription drugs based out of New Delhi, to various P.O. boxes, including to areas in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.

Additionally, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection recovered more than 60 shipments containing more than 100,000 additional pills from India that were headed to locations registered under Hayes’ name. The release reads that the pills were placed in blister packs and with no instructions on how they should be used.

The release states that border protection sent letters to Hayes notifying him that the shipments had been seized because the drugs had been imported illegally. 

The group sent more than 5,000 packages to location across the nation between February 2012 and September 2013.

Investigators obtained the content of an email account used by the couple that they used to manage and confirm the receipt of drugs to India, to receive and track customer orders for drugs, and to coordinate payments. The content of emails obtained from the Hayes email account contains discussions about drug seizures from India and indicate that they had set up various P.O. boxes in an attempt to avoid attention from authorities. 

Hayes expressed worry to the Indian-based supplier in an email exchange regarding the number of packages the couple was receiving.

“[lets] (sic) stay out of jail 8-10 packages at each post office sometimes every day are too many. 25-30 packages a day and 7,000 a month is plenty I never asked for more. Lets (sic) keep the deal we agreed on,” the email reads, according to court documents.

Another email reads, “Penny is being overworked and getting ill. I have seen her work 21 hours in 1 day to send so many many packages … My biggest point is we don’t have enough time to do all the orders that you are sending. I can open more p.o. Boxes to help the amount of packages … but that won’t help her stress and health.”

during a search warrant that was executed at the Hayes residence in New Ipswich, investigators located more than 100,000 pills, including prescription drugs and controlled substances, shipping labels, empty shipping containers, and other documents.

The drugs distributed by the defendants included foreign versions of Hydrocodone, Percocet, Valium, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Ativan, and Ambien, among a slew of others.

“Misbranded drugs present a danger to the public,” said U.S. Attorney Murray.  “The millions of pills that the defendants were distributing were not approved by the FDA and had the potential to harm, rather than heal, those who took them.  The defendants placed their interests in profits over patient safety. I commend the law enforcement agents whose hard work dismantled this criminal scheme.”

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.