Bessemer Couple Sentenced for Producing Fake Prescription Drugs
BIRMINGHAM, AL (STL.News) A Bessemer couple was sentenced today for possessing pill presses used to make fake prescription drugs, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations, Miami Field Office Special Agent in Charge Justin C. Fielder.
U.S. District Court Judge Annemarie Axon sentenced Earnest Lee Coleman, 44, and Tashana Lynn Sims, 38, husband and wife. Coleman was sentenced to 78 months in prison and Sims was sentenced to 36 months’ probation for their roles in the offenses. Coleman pleaded guilty to possessing punches, dies, and plates with the intent to defraud or mislead, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possessing controlled substances with the intent to distribute them, holding for sale and dispensing a counterfeit drug, and adulteration of a drug. Sims pleaded guilty to illegally possessing punches, dies, and plates. The couple pleaded guilty in February.
“The defendants used dangerous drugs to make counterfeit pills that looked like legitimate prescription drugs, misleading potential buyers and exposing them to unacceptable risks.” U.S. Attorney Escalona said. “My office will continue to prosecute those who take advantage of the opioid crisis to prey on vulnerable victims.”
“Counterfeiting unapproved and potentially dangerous opioids poses a serious threat to the U.S. public health and cannot be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Justin C. Fielder, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Miami Field Office. “The FDA is fully committed to doing our part to disrupt and dismantle illegal prescription drug manufacturing and distribution networks.”
According to their plea agreements, in April 2018, an international mail package from China was intercepted en route to 3300 Berkley Avenue, Bessemer, Alabama, the home of Coleman and Sims. The package contained two metal dies and a metal mold designed to be used to produce pressed pills. Authorities searched the Bessemer home, finding controlled substances, multiple firearms, and a pill press, powders and dyes used to make fake drugs. In October 2019, authorities again searched the home, finding an additional pill press, punch and die, and firearms. Coleman and Sims ran a counterfeit prescription pill operation out of their home in Bessemer in which Coleman used acetaminophen, fentanyl, heroin, and paverine to make pills similar in appearance to legitimate pharmaceuticals with markings such as “Lortab”, “Adderall”, “Soma”, “Xanax”, “Ecstasy”, “Oxycodone”, and “OxyContin.” Coleman sold or traded these pills to obtain other drugs.
The FDA investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys Austin Shutt and Jonathan Cross prosecuted.