Florida men are accused of distributing contaminated HIV drugs

Men defrauded the government over an HIV drug program.


Human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) consist of two species of lentiviruses that infect humans. It is a sexually transmitted infection most of the time and can cause an often fatal autoimmune disease, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), in which worsening immune system failure causes the attack body with life-threatening infections. Without treatment with HIV drugs, the average survival time would be 9 to 11 years depending on the exact species of virus.

HIV is transmitted through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, including semen and vaginal secretions. Non-sexual transmission can occur from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, exposure to bodily fluids, and during childbirth. Because HIV and AIDS are so deadly, it is important for someone who is not infected to take precautions to avoid exposure. If contracted, it is equally important for an HIV-positive person to seek appropriate treatment.

That’s why the crimes of Lazaro Hernandez (51, from Miami, Florida) are so horrific. Hernandez was arrested for allegedly distributing over $230 million worth of adulterated HIV drugs which were then distributed to unsuspecting patients across the United States. He was charged alongside co-conspirator Eladio Vega, 37. Prosecutors say the Florida men were responsible for a nationwide scheme to ‘defraud the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and illegally distribute… adulterated and mislabeled prescription HIV drugs’ .

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Hernandez allegedly obtained large amounts of drugs illegally, then produced fraudulent labels and other documentation to make it look like they were purchased legally. He and his co-conspirators licensed wholesale drug distribution companies in Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. They then used these companies to sell the drugs at steep discounts to others at wholesale distributors in Mississippi, Maryland, and New York. Wholesale distributors often resold the drugs to pharmacies, billing them to health insurers, including Medicare. Finally, pharmacies dispensed HIV-contaminated drugs to patients. Over the two-year period between 2019 and 2021, wholesale pharmaceutical distributors paid Hernandez and his co-conspirators hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to court documents, Hernandez “laundered these hundreds of millions of dollars through the use of multiple corporations in Miami,” which ultimately led to him being charged with “conspiracy to deliver adulterated drugs to interstate commerce.” and mislabelled, conspiracy to traffic medical products with false documentation, conspiracy to commit money laundering and specific money laundering offences.

It is not known if anyone was injured after using the mislabeled drugs, but the men do not currently face any homicide charges or charges related to physically harming the recipients of the drugs. It is also unclear whether other people were involved in the scheme and whether they have been brought to justice.

If convicted on all counts, Hernandez faces a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison, which equates to more than a life sentence. Separately, he was charged with failing to follow the guidelines of his indictment which was remanded by a grand jury in Miami on June 14. Hernandez is due in court for the first time in both cases this month in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

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