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Man convicted for making ‘fake’ drugs in secret lab for sale on ‘dark web’

A man claiming to have pharmacy qualifications was found guilty of charges including conspiracy to produce and supply Class C controlled drugs, the Metropolitan Police (Met) has said.

Allen Valentine, 62, his son Roshan Valentine, 39, of Hilliard Road in Northwood, and “childhood friend” Krunal Patel, 40, of Carmalite Road in Harrow, were convicted for “running a large-scale drugs factory in Acton”, the Met police said this week (May 10).

They were found to have been running a secret laboratory that produced sedative Class C benzodiazepine drugs and selling them, it added.

Read more: ‘Horrific’: Ex-pharmacy manager jailed for life for murdering brother in chippy

They had “several accounts on different dark web markets and advertised the sale of Xanax, diazepam and in the past Valium”, it said.

Allen Valentine, of Kynaston Wood in Harrow, told the court that he was a doctor and “has qualifications in pharmacy”, according to the police, which added that “enquiries are currently ongoing to verify the claims”.

 

“Concealed laboratory”

 

The US Drug Enforcement Administration shared intelligence with the Met’s Cyber Crime Unit that the men “were selling pharmaceutical drugs on the dark web”, leading detectives to begin their investigation in January 2022, the Met said.

The men had set up a “concealed laboratory” in a business park warehouse unit in Acton, operating under the guise of a company called Puzzle Logistics Limited that was formed in 2016, it added.

Police discovered a “large amount of equipment and several containers of chemical substances” as well as “numerous crates of pills manufactured on site”, it said.

Read more: Pharmacist suspended for nine months over online supply of high-risk drugs

The pills produced in the laboratory were packaged on-site and posted to customers that had bought the pills on the “dark web” using cryptocurrency, it added.

Police analysis revealed that they contained Class C drugs from the benzodiazepine group, including deschloroetizolam, flubromazepam, bromazolam and flualprazolam, according to the Met.

Read more: Pharmacist struck off for illegitimate codeine supply after threats to family

The trio visited the unit “on a daily basis” and often stayed “for much of the day”, while Mr Patel “would frequently leave with large bags, returning 10 to 15 minutes later without the contents”, it said.

When Mr Patel was arrested near to the warehouse, he had 15 parcels labelled for posting to addresses across the UK containing “tablets imprinted ‘Xanax’ and ‘Teva’” – brand names for licensed benzodiazepine medicines – it added.

 

“At least £3.5m in profit”

 

According to the Met, Allen Valentine and the two others involved in the criminal scheme made “at least £3.5 million in illicit profit”.

The trio converted £3.5m from cryptocurrency into “fiat currency”, it said, adding that it has now “frozen the accounts”.

Read more: Pharmacist slapped with 12-month suspension for illegal supply of 2m pills

The Met said that detectives used “specialist cyber tactics” to prove that the three men were responsible for making and selling the counterfeit pills.

All three were arrested in August last year and charged with “conspiracy to produce Class C drugs and money laundering offences”, it added. They were remanded in custody.

 

“Extremely dangerous” and “solely for greed”

 

Cyber Crime Unit detective constable Alex Hawkins, who led the investigation, said that the three men “ran a sophisticated, large-scale production of fake pharmaceutical drugs sold on the dark web that appeared to be genuine”.

“Some of the drugs contained completely different chemicals from those which should be in the genuine tablets [and] some of them are extremely dangerous,” he added.

The operation “was solely for the greed of those involved bearing no concern for the vulnerabilities of those purchasing these drugs”, he said.

Read more: UK gang members jailed for part in illegal sale of prescription meds worth £3.7m

Mr Hawkins thanked pharmaceutical companies Viatris and Teva UK for “assisting the Met” in its investigation and “supporting [its] prosecution against these dangerous and fraudulent men”.

He added that this was the first seizure of these chemicals in the UK and that legislation will be amended "later this year” to include these drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act as Class A substances.

“Stopping the manufacturing of these drugs has removed a significant risk to the public,” he said.

 

Crown Court trial

 

Mr Patel and Roshan Valentine pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court on February 10, the Met said.

Allen Valentine pleaded not guilty of the offences but was “found guilty” following a trial at the same court this week (May 9), it added.

Read more: GPhC strikes off pharmacist for supplying zolpidem on black market

 

The offences included “conspiracy” to produce and supply controlled Class C drugs and possessing such drugs “with intent to supply”, as well as “conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property”, it said.

 

They also included “conspiracy” to “use a registered trademark for labelling or packaging goods” and to sell these trademarked goods “without authorisation”, as well as “possession of articles designed to make unauthorised copies of registered trademarks”, it added.

 

The three men will be sentenced “on a date to be determined” and a “confiscation hearing” will be held “in due course” to legally obtain the “illegal profits” made by the operation, the Met said.

 

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