A San Gabriel Valley man was sentenced Monday to 100 months in federal prison for smuggling pharmaceutical-grade erectile dysfunction pills from China and making $11 million by marketing them as herbal remedies, prosecutors said.
The pills sold by 41-year-old John Seil Lee of Walnut contained the active ingredient in Cialis, and taking them caused some men permanent injuries, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central District of California.
The court also ordered Lee to pay men who took the misbranded pills, including those who were hurt, more than $552,000 in restitution.
In sentencing him, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said Lee has shown no remorse for the scheme “literally ruined lives,” according to the release.
“It’s obvious to me that this defendant has little or no respect for the law or the harm he caused numerous victims,” Anderson said.
Lee pleaded guilty Feb. 27 to three felony counts of conspiracy, importing contraband into the U.S. and filing a false tax return.
The defendant’s two companies, KHK International Trade Enterprise and SHH World Trading Enterprises, also pleaded guilty in the case. They were each sentenced Monday to five years’ probation; KHK was also fined $100,000, and SHH ordered to pay $115,484 in restitution, officials said.
Lee would illegally import tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis, in powder form from China. He used the drug to make pills with up to 14 times the level of tadalafil contained in Cialis, according to prosecutors.
The capsules — sold across the U.S. under names like “Monster X,” “One More Knight” and “Royal Master” — didn’t have labels disclosing tadalafil as an ingredient and fraudulently claimed no prescription was necessary, regulators say.
Lee allegedly continued to sell the pills even after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warnings that they were dangerous. Instead, he changed the products’ names, such as altering “One More Knight” to “Own the Knight,” officials said.
Even after Lee shut down SHH following the execution of federal search warrants in February 2017, he allegedly helped his friend Jin Su Park set up a copycat business through which the pills continued to be sold.
Because taking large doses of tadalafil can lead to life-threatening drops in blood pressure, vision and hearing loss and painful erections that can result in permanent injury, the FDA only allows such drugs to be administered under medical supervision.
Prosecutors say they’ve secured a total of 16 guilty pleas in the conspiracy led by Lee, and others will be sentenced over the next several months.