Carlow had a family member open a Kissimmee company called BTC Wholesale that was little more than an empty office. Carlow actually ran BTC from his house, with a second relative doing the books from her Lake Worth home, documents show.
In January 2002, thieves stole $250,000 of injectable blood medications from Miami wholesaler Biomed Plus. Three days later, Carlow offered the same drugs to the Stone Group, a Boca Raton wholesaler, documents show.
Stone Group sent an employee to fetch the vials at Carlow's house on a Sunday and the next day put them out for sale over the Internet and via mass-issue faxes. Stone Group sold the drugs -- back to Biomed.
It was a sting. Biomed had called the authorities, who were waiting for the delivery. Stone Group employees later told investigators they had picked up $2.2 million of questionable drugs at Carlow's house over three months.
When inspectors checked Stone Group's records, they found receipts for at least $700,000 in medications bought from a Utah firm but delivered from Novosel's house in Fort Lauderdale. Agents said he and his girlfriend ran the Utah company, Optia Medical. Optia also was accused in a 2002 lawsuit of selling part of $8.5 million in a relabeled, counterfeit blood booster called Epogen found at AmerisourceBergen Corp., a huge national distributor.
An Oct. 1 shipment illustrated Carlow's operation.
State agents seized 131 boxes of the anemia drug Procrit, used to treat cancer and HIV/AIDS patients, worth $226,000 in a Miami sting. Tests showed it was 5 percent strength relabled as full strength. They traced it back.
A Carlow associate had obtained or relabeled the drugs and sold them to a Carlow dummy company in Odenton, Md., which shipped them to a Carlow associate in Indiana who was licensed to sell into Florida. The Indiana firm shipped them back to Carlow to be resold again when the package was intercepted, officials said in a search warrant.
"It's classic money-laundering technique," said William Avery, a Medicaid fraud investigator for the state attorney general. "The more layers you put between the good guy and the bad guy, the more protection there is for the bad guy."
Carlow's attorney, Craig Brand, declined to discuss specific allegations, but said Carlow was filing a lawsuit accusing the state of unfairly persecuting him.
"It's easy to throw stones," Brand said. "I look forward to seeing their proof. They haven't done anything, have they? The end of the day is going to be interesting."
José Antonio Benitez
Benitez failed as a marijuana trafficker -- he got busted and spent five years in federal prison. Later, he lost his job at a trucking company, then went to jail for trying to defraud his former employer.
But Benitez, 45, made millions as a pharmaceutical wholesaler in North Miami. Even after the state of Florida caught up with him, he set up shop in North Carolina and continued selling into Florida.
When he got his wholesaler license from Florida in July 1999, Benitez had just pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a Mississippi federal court and had recently completed probation from a 1991 conviction for smuggling pot into Key West. Like Carlow, he did not disclose his convictions and no one checked.
Benitez and two partners built their company, Triple J Trading, into a wholesale force, documents show. After 18 months, the state learned of his convictions and revoked his license. But within weeks, his wife, Solange, opened a new Miami company, Brazil-U.S. Trading. Within months, his brother and a Pembroke Pines wholesaler started A&J Trading in Mint Hill, N.C.
"Anyone with a warehouse, an alarm, air conditioning and a refrigerator can get a license," said Robert Penezic, a Florida assistant attorney general overseeing a grand jury investigating the wholesale drug business.
In January 2002, state health inspectors watched a Brazil-U.S. driver deliver $5,000 of AIDS pills to a Davie wholesaler. All had sticky labels, an indication they were relabeled and likely fake, expired or adulterated, documents show.
Inspectors raided Brazil-U.S. and found Benitez. He claimed he was just a consultant. The state seized 145 bottles of adulterated AIDS drugs and cholesterol medications worth $1 million, all with sticky labels, plus common chemicals used to remove labels.
Brazil-U.S. records show it had sold $4 million of drugs to local wholesale and retail outlets, and had bought $6.9 million during five months of 2001 from A&J.
Former convicts try a safer venture: Pharmaceuticals
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