News Column

UPS Agrees to $40M Settlement in Illegal Drug Shipping Probe

March 30, 2013

Amy Pavuk, Orlando Sentinel

UPS, illegal drug, deliveries

March 30--UPS, which has been the target of a federal investigation related to packages shipped from online pharmacies, agreed on Friday to pay $40 million to the government to settle the case.

As part of the non-prosecution agreement between the shipping company and the U.S. Department of Justice, UPS agreed that it was aware that Internet pharmacies violated the law when shipping controlled substances and other drugs without a valid prescription.

"Despite being on notice that such Internet pharmacies were using its services, UPS did not implement procedures to close the accounts of those pharmacies, permitting them to ship controlled substances and prescription drugs from 2003 to 2010," an agreed statement of facts said.

Federal law prohibits the purchase of controlled substances -- which include painkillers -- without a valid prescription from a physician. A prescription based solely on a customer completing an online questionnaire is not valid.

As part of the settlement, the government agreed to not prosecute UPS on charges ranging from money laundering to distribution of controlled substances. UPS, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment, is not the only shipping company being targeted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

In a statement released Friday, UPS said: "UPS cooperated with the DOJ throughout the investigation. We believe we have an obligation and responsibility to help curb the sale and shipment of drugs sold through illegal Internet pharmacies. UPS will pay a $40 million penalty and has agreed to enhance its compliance policies with respect to Internet pharmacy shippers."

FedEx has also acknowledged it is under investigation, calling the California-based probe a threat to customers' privacy, and "absurd and deeply disturbing."

In a statement issued Friday, FedEx said: "We remain confident that we are in compliance with federal law...We continue to urge the Drug Enforcement Administration to give us a list of pharmacies that they believe are operating illegally so we can immediately shut off shipping services to those pharmacies."

The DEA said Friday that UPS has "cooperated fully" with the investigation and taken steps to ensure illegal Internet pharmacies cannot ship drugs through the company.

apavuk@tribune.com or 407-420-5735

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