Houston, Texas - Two citizens of Ukraine have been sentenced for trafficking in and smuggling into the United States counterfeit cancer and hepatitis drugs.
Maksym Nienadov, 36, was the owner of the Ukrainian-based company Healthy Nation. He and his co-conspirator and employee - Volodymyr Nikolaienko, 34 - pleaded guilty in July 2020 to both trafficking in and smuggling into the United States counterfeit drugs and conspiracy to do so. Nienadov also pleaded guilty to introducing misbranded drugs into the United States.
Today, Nienadov and Nikolaienko were sentenced to respective terms of 71 and 33 months in federal prison. Each defendant is expected to face removal proceedings following his term in prison.
“The defendants sought to profit off the illnesses of others, selling false hope – including fake drugs with no active ingredient – and risking the health of vulnerable patients,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This prosecution makes clear that we will hold accountable those who disregard the risks to patients by smuggling counterfeit drugs into the United States.”
“Those that traffic counterfeit drugs pose harm to our country’s most vulnerable citizens and will face consequences,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery of the Southern District of Texas. “Defenseless people need their medications for life-threatening illnesses. Schemes like these put patients at risk of not receiving the actual drugs required for treatment. This prosecution demonstrates the tremendous work by all our partners and our collaborative commitment to protecting our community and combatting counterfeit drug trafficking into the United States.”
“Selling illegal prescription drugs in the U.S. marketplace puts consumers’ health at risk, but it is especially reprehensible when the drugs are intended for use with especially vulnerable populations, such as cancer patients,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles L. Grinstead of the Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), Kansas City Field Office. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who sell illegal prescription drugs, knowing that they can jeopardize patients’ health.”
“We work tirelessly, alongside our federal partners and private sector stakeholders, to prevent counterfeit pharmaceuticals from infiltrating the American marketplace,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Houston. “Today’s sentencing is another example of our relentless efforts to ensure consumers are receiving the life-saving pharmaceuticals that they need to treat their afflictions.”
Nienadov and Nikolaienko were arrested in April 2019 after they arrived in the United States from Ukraine to discuss sales of future unlawful shipments of drugs. They have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined.
HSI and FDA-OCI conducted the investigation.
Senior Trial Attorney Jeff Pearlman of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Edwards of the Southern District of Texas prosecuted the case. Former CCIPS Senior Trial Attorney Kebharu Smith assisted in the prosecution.
The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine provided substantial assistance.