From the daily archives: Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Andrade, Calif. – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers working pedestrian operations at the Andrade, Calif., Port of Entry had a busy weekend intercepting undeclared medication and levying fines in excess of $14,000 for the violations in three separate incidents.

The first seizure occurred on Friday when a 66-year-old female U. S. citizen from Pinehurst, Idaho, applied for entry into the U. S. When asked by a CBP officer what she was bringing from Mexico, the subject declared medication and presented a white pharmacy bag. The officer examined the medication and noticed one of the pill bottles had been opened. A closer inspection revealed there was more medication in the bottle (984 pills) than indicated so the subject was referred to the secondary inspection area. The medication was seized and the traveler was penalized $11,780. She signed a promissory note and was released without further incident.

The second incident occurred on Saturday when an 89-year-old female U.S. citizen from Sun City, Ariz., applied for entry into the U. S., declaring medication and other miscellaneous items. When asked numerous times if she had anything else to declare, the subject responded she had nothing further to declare. Upon a subsequent search of her purse, officers found two undeclared bottles of Carisoprodol (100 pills) and Valium (90 pills). The subject admitted she was told by the pharmacist in Mexico to hide the pills inside her purse. The medication was seized and the subject was penalized $2,000. She paid the penalty and was released.

The final incident occurred later Saturday when a 51-year-old female U. S. citizen from Idaho Falls, Idaho, applied for entry into the U. S., declaring medication and other items. After observing the subject appearing nervous, the officer opened the medication bottles and noticed the seals had been tampered with. The officer referred the traveler to the secondary inspection area where officers discovered the pill bottles marked as Tramadol actually contained Phentermine (100 pills). The medication was seized and a $2,000 penalty was assessed. She paid the penalty and was released.

Andrade Port Director Ray Nagy said it is important for travelers to know the requirements before passing through ports of entry such as Andrade and there is a wealth of information available to educate the public on the CBP website:

“We believe a well informed traveler will have a safe, more enjoyable, relaxing experience,” he said. “Therefore, it is advised travelers familiarize themselves with the ‘Know Before You Go’ section of the CBP website before traveling out of the country.

“The website provides useful information about necessary documentation to prove citizenship and information about allowed and prohibited items,” he said. “I strongly suggest travelers read it.”

Nagy also said it is imperative for travelers to understand there is a price to pay for not following the rules by failing to declare or attempting to smuggle medications, agriculture products, alcohol and other items.

“In these cases there was misconception and misinformation, which is unfortunate,” he said. “Bottom line, travelers face stiff civil penalties or possible criminal prosecution for failing to declare items at an U.S. port or entry. Always declare everything acquired abroad. Lack of knowledge is not an acceptable excuse.”


Following nearly five years of court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to grant the request of California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to review a state law prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to children.

Brown petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case last year after California’s ban was struck down in federal court. The case is expected to be heard by the high court later this year.

“It is time to allow California’s common-sense law to go into effect and help parents protect their children from violent video games,” Brown said.

California’s petition for a writ of certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2009 on behalf of the state of California. The case stems from a 2005 California law that requires violent video games to be labeled with an “18”, prohibits the sale or rental of these games to minors, and authorizes fines of up to $1,000 for each violation.

The Video Software Dealers Association (now part of the Entertainment Merchants Association) filed suit in federal court to block the law before it could go into effect.

On August 6, 2007, the U.S. District Court for Northern California invalidated California’s law. Brown immediately appealed the ruling. On February 20, 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court ruling.

Brown’s petition asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up this case and overturn the appellate court decision.

The petition argued that violent material in video games should be subject to the same flexible legal standard the courts have applied to limitations on sexually explicit material sold to children – that it is lawful for the state to determine that some content is harmful to children.

Currently, states may regulate the sale of sexually explicit magazines to children, but their authority to place similar limits on the sale of extremely violent video games is in dispute.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never addressed the question of whether extremely violent material sold to children can be treated the same as sexually explicit material. Brown’s petition asked the Court to resolve this question and hold that states can place reasonable restrictions on the distribution of extremely violent material to children.


Naco, Arizona — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped a smuggling attempt when they seized $729,000 of marijuana concealed in a mattress at the Naco, Ariz., Port of Entry.

Customs and Border Protection officers discovered 330 pounds of  marijuana in a mattress.
Customs and Border Protection officers discovered 330 pounds of marijuana in a mattress at the Naco, Ariz., Port of Entry on Saturday. The marijuana had a street value of $729,000.

CBP officers screening traffic coming from Mexico on Saturday selected a Chevrolet pickup truck full of furniture for further inspection. The truck was being driven by a 30-year-old man from Naco, Sonora, Mexico. With the assistance of a special K-9 team, the officers discovered that a mattress was stuffed with packages of marijuana weighing nearly 330 pounds. The marijuana had an estimated street value of $729,000.

CBP officers seized the vehicle and the marijuana. The man was turned over to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further investigation


Drugs Hidden Inside Vehicle Gas Tank and Spare Tire

San Diego – Yesterday during two incidents, U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested three men, including a previously deported criminal alien, for suspected drug smuggling. Agents seized over 83 pounds of marijuana that had an estimated street value of over $41,800; some drugs were hidden inside a vehicle’s gas tank and spare tire.

One incident occurred at about 12 p.m., in Fallbrook, Calif., when agents observed a male driver and two male passengers park a Ford Expedition at a gas station convenience store on Highway 76. The driver and the rear passenger exited the vehicle and entered the store. Agents knocked on the window to speak to the man in the front seat. When he opened the door agents detected the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle and questioned the 26-year-old, Mexican national, who was later determined to be a previously deported criminal alien. Agents waited outside to confront the individuals still in the store, but only one came out; the other absconded. Agents summoned a Border Patrol K-9 team to the scene which discovered over 23 pounds of marijuana in the back seat.

Earlier that day at around 6 a.m., in Pine Valley, Calif, an agent stopped a Dodge Darango on Interstate 8 near the Buckman Springs Road exit. The driver, a 25-year-old man, U.S. citizen, consented to a K-9 search on the vehicle. A Border Patrol K-9 team arrived on the scene and performed the search which produced an alert on the vehicle. The vehicle was then transported to a Border Patrol Station to allow agents to investigate further.

Agents, focusing on the gas tank, used a scope and observed several plastic wrapped bundles inside. The tank was removed and agents extracted several bundles of marijuana. Agents also notice irregularities with the vehicle’s spare tire and revealed bundles of marijuana hidden inside. A total of 40 bundles were recovered from the seizure. The marijuana has a total weight of 60.6 pounds and an estimated street value of $30,300.


Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that California, along with other jurisdictions, has reached a $520 million settlement with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, to settle allegations it engaged in the “dangerous practice” of promoting drugs for unapproved uses in marketing Seroquel, its blockbuster antipsychotic drug.

London-based AstraZeneca will pay states and the federal government a total of $520 million in damages and penalties. California’s share is $31 million for Medi-Cal, which provides health care to the state’s poor, and other state programs.

“This company engaged in an illegal, off-label marketing campaign to boost sales of Seroquel, a powerful antipsychotic drug that should be prescribed with great caution,” said Brown. “This practice of promoting drugs for unapproved uses is dangerous and can have serious and unforeseen consequences.”

Seroquel is an antipsychotic medication used to treat psychological disorders. From 2001 through 2006, AstraZeneca was found to have promoted the drug not only to psychiatrists, but also to primary care physicians and other healthcare professionals for unapproved uses in the treatment of medical conditions such as aggression, Alzheimer’s disorder, anger management, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia and sleeplessness.

Doctors may prescribe medications for off-label uses, but drug makers are prohibited from promoting drugs for treatment of medical conditions not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.)

In its marketing campaign, AstraZeneca was also alleged to have made illegal payments to physicians, paying their way to travel to resort locations to “advise” AstraZeneca about marketing messages for unapproved uses, to serve as authors of articles written by AstraZeneca and its agents, and to conduct studies for unapproved uses of Seroquel.

The settlement resolves claims that, as a result of these promotional activities, AstraZeneca encouraged physicians to prescribe Seroquel for children, adolescents and dementia patients in long-term care facilities for uses not medically accepted or FDA-approved. Among other side effects, the drugs have been shown to cause significant weight gain in children. The company also failed to adequately disclose studies that show Seroquel increases the risk of diabetes.

As part of the settlement, AstraZeneca will enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, which will closely monitor the company’s marketing and sales practices.

This settlement is based on qui tam cases, or whistle-blower lawsuits, that were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

A National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units team, including members from California and other states, participated in the investigation and entered into the settlement negotiations with AstraZeneca on behalf of the states.

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