From Shereen Siewert
A Wausauer health insurance broker who ran a program to import and distribute fake brand medicines from India will spend six months in jail after pleading guilty of postal fraud and money laundering, federal officials said Friday.
Kenneth Zipperer, 54, was also fined $ 150,000 and $ 483 in restitution costs.
In January 2019, At least five agents were seen pulling boxes from the Zipperer Financial, Wausau Forststr. 115 carried and placed in vehicles. The agents wore jackets that identified them as IRS-CID officers.
Zipperer Financial offered complementary Medicare plans, benefit plans, and Part D pharma plans.
Investigators refused to comment on the investigation for more than 18 months. But in November 2020, federal officials announced that Zipperer had been charged with 26 federal charges stemming from a plan with an unlicensed pharmacy. Zipper initially faced five postal fraud cases, ten wire transfer fraud cases, two cases of distributing bogus prescription drugs without a written prescription or license to administer such drugs, five cases of covert money laundering, and four cases of advertising money laundering.
According to the indictment, Zipperer imported overseas prescription drugs via the U.S. Mail and Express Mail Service from an Internet pharmacy company in India, and none of the drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for human consumption in the U.S. Attorney’s Office Zipperer was not licensed to dispense or prescribe prescription drugs, and that he used his staff, computers, and office space to order prescription drugs from India, break down bulk shipments into quantities for individual customers, store drug inventory, and issue invoices for payment, and deposit drug customers’ checks into the company’s commercial bank account, officials said.
Zipperer urged his prescription drug customers to pay him cash to avoid leaving a paper trail of financial transactions related to the operations of his underground pharmacy and for him to conduct financial transactions knowing that it was revenue engaged in illegal activities, prosecutors said. Usually he personally distributed the drugs to insurance customers, mostly in his office in downtown Wausau.
On Friday, Zipperer was convicted of postal fraud and once money laundering, said Timothy M. O’Shea, acting US attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin. US District Judge William M. Conley directed the case.
O’Shea said distributing unapproved prescription drugs is not only illegal, but also endangers consumer health.
“To protect public health and safety, our office works closely with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who seek profit from the sale of unapproved prescription drugs,” said O’Shea.
Federal officials warn against taking foreign unapproved prescription drugs that can put patients at serious risk. Unapproved drugs have no guarantees of safety or effectiveness and can harm those who use them, said special envoy Lynda M. Burdelik, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Chicago Field Office.
“We will continue to investigate those who endanger public health,” said Burdelik.
The charges against Zipperer were the result of an investigation by the US Postal Inspection Service, the US Food & Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations, the IRS Criminal Investigation, and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Deputy US Attorney Daniel Graber took the indictment.