A ‘dark web’ drug dealer who sold hundreds of counterfeit prescription drugs using a Post Office was caught with over £200,000 worth of tablets in a storage unit.
Mohammed Ghani was seen carrying a large plastic bag on multiple occasions into the store in Burnage, Manchester, before going behind the counter and weighing up to 50 padded envelopes, Manchester Evening News reports.
The 39-year-old then posted them himself with handwritten labels and pre-bought stamps, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Investigating officers for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency made authorised payments to several drugs when looking into a dark web seller known as ‘FatSam’.
The officer received the package of 50 Ambien tablets in a jiffy envelope after making the purchase online.
On another occasion, the officer bought Ritalin tablets which were said to have been shipped but were never received.
Following the execution of a search warrant at Ghani’s address in Longsight and a storage unit he rented, officers found in excess of 250,000 prescription counterfeit drugs as well as empty seal bags and packaging.
He was not licenced to supply medicines, nor was he registered as a doctor or pharmacist, the court heard.
Ghani pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply a controlled drug class C, conspiracy to sell prescription-only medication and offering for sale goods with the sign or packaging which bears a sign identical or likely to be mistaken as a registered trademark.
He has now been handed an 18 month prison sentence which was suspended for two years.
Prosecutor Christopher Stables said Ghani’s role in the commercial practice was to arrange the storage of the drugs and relay details of orders.
He said orders were placed over the dark web and Ghani arranged the packaging of the drugs and posted them onto the buyers.
The court heard the MHRA has been investigating a dark web seller known as ‘FatSam’ and has been carrying out surveillance on Ghani as a result.
“On May 31 2018 he was seen driving a white Audi A5 and then entering his home address at 4.50pm,” Mr Stables said.
“At around 6.30pm he left the premises carrying a heavily laden white carrier bag, putting it in the boot of the Audi then driving to the post office.
“He was then seen carrying the bag inside the post office, using the post office scales on the public side, then entering the staff area behind the counter and taking the packages with him.
“He shook hands with the staff and was observed with a number of white envelopes containing handwritten addresses behind the counter.
“A test purchase was carried out on June 25, authorised by MHRA. The officer went onto the website ‘Dream Market’ and purchased Ambien.
“The officer searched for ‘FatSam’ and saw the product Ambien and that there were 20 tabs for sale – he purchased them for a fraction of a bitcoin, namely 0.007, which works out at £34.”
The following day Ghani was seen getting into his car with a large plastic bag, then shortly after arriving at the Post Office.
On July 1, 2018, the officer received a padded envelope and forwarded it onto the MHRA scientist for analysis.
On the sachet a label read “colon cleanser” and said it contained 50 tablets, the batch number and the best before date which was listed as December 2019.
It also displayed that the goods were manufactured at a company called Northern Neurocentrica with an address in Liverpool, later confirmed to be fictitious.
The tablets were examined and found to contain 7.6 milligrams of Zolpidem, a prescription only medication and class C drug.
In September 2018, another officer was authorised to purchase a further drug from ‘FatSam’, however, despite receiving confirmation of the shipment, the delivery was never received.
In October 2018 a search warrant was executed at both Ghani’s home address and the storage unit which he was renting in Old Trafford.
From his address, officers seized 7,510 tablets, with an estimated value of £3,496, and from the storage unit, 278,760 tablets, with an estimated value of £214,000, as well as packaging.
The prosecutor added: “Enquiries were made at the Post Office to establish whether they were complicit, the postmaster confirmed they knew the defendant as ‘Azeem’, and said he told them he was posting beads his wife had made.
“They also confirmed he bought 50 first class stamps and said that during 2018 he began posting parcels and said he told them it was health supplements he had obtained from China.
“He was well known to the staff and permitted behind the counter, posted his own parcels and the postmaster estimated the defendant had posted hundreds of parcels in all.”
Since his arrest, checks have confirmed that Ghani holds no relevant licences to manufacture or supply medicines, nor is he a registered pharmacist or a registered doctor.
Analysis of the drugs found established that they were counterfeit versions of genuine medicines.
Ghani was said to have previous convictions for dishonesty and theft by employee.
It was said earlier this week there was substantial dialogue between parties around mitigation and sentencing guidelines.
Mitigating, Mr McMeekin added: “The role and category are accepted on behalf of the defendant.”
Sentencing him, the Recorder of Manchester, Judge Nicholas Dean QC said: “There was some degree of sophistication using the dark web and for the distribution of class C drugs.
“I would think you did so for monetary gain.
“You are now of an age where I hope in the future you will avoid offending altogether – I hope we don’t see you again before this court.”
Ghani, of Milverton Road, was given an 18 months suspended sentence for two years and handed 180 hours unpaid work.
Andy Morling, MHRA Head of Enforcement, said: “It is a serious criminal offence to sell controlled, unlicensed or prescription-only medicines outside the strictly controlled medicines supply chain”.
“Prescription only medicines are potent and should only be taken under medical supervision. Their sale outside the legal supply route can lead to vulnerable people being exploited.
“Anyone who sells medicines illegally is not only breaking the law but shows a blatant disregard for the health and welfare of anyone who may purchase them.
“We work closely with regulatory and law enforcement partners to identify and take action against those involved, including bringing a criminal prosecution if necessary.
“If you think you have been offered a medicine illegally or have any information about suspected or known illegal trading in medicines, please contact the MHRA.”