Canadian online pharmacy pioneer denied bail in U.S.
Andrew Strempler, originally from Manitoba, accused in counterfeit drug case
A former Manitoban who was a pioneer in the cross-border online pharmacy industry has been denied bail in the United States on charges related to the sale of foreign and counterfeit medication.
Andrew Strempler, 38, appeared before a U.S. pre-trial magistrate judge in Miami on Wednesday, less than a week after he was arrested on two counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.
In denying bail, Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman said Strempler was too much of a flight risk, noting that Strempler's parents and siblings are in Canada and his wife and two children are in Panama.
The judge said Strempler sold his home in Florida a few years ago and had not returned to the U.S. since learning he was under investigation.
Strempler's lawyers had asked that he be released on bail and placed under house arrest in Miami.
Strempler did not enter a plea on Wednesday, as he has not yet retained a permanent defence attorney.
The three-person defence team that did appear in court was granted more time to review the case. Strempler's case will return to court on June 29.
Faces up to 60 years in prison
Goodman confirmed that Strempler could face up to 60 years in prison if he is convicted on all three charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years each.
Neither the defence lawyers nor the prosecuting attorney would comment on Strempler's case while it's before the courts.
The current charges relate to a 2005 seizure of drugs shipped by Mediplan Pharmacy, which Strempler founded. It is also known as RxNorth.com.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration claimed many of the drugs promoted as Canadian actually came from other countries.
An FDA investigation was launched in 2006 after the agency advised consumers against purchasing several prescription drugs from Mediplan.
At the time, Strempler called the FDA warning a tactic designed to prevent uninsured Americans from obtaining prescription drugs from outside the U.S.
He also claimed his company regularly tested the drugs and declared them safe and reliable.
Strempler later sold his company to CanadaDrugs.com, another Winnipeg-based online pharmacy group that is currently being investigated by the FDA in connection with two more cases of counterfeit cancer drugs found in the U.S. earlier this year.
While Strempler faces the three criminal charges, U.S. authorities are also going after him for $95 million of what they allege are proceeds of crime.
United States District Court indictment
With files from freelancer Shannon Novak and the CBC's Karen Pauls