United States Attorney General Praises Use of Terrorism Laws to Disrupt Illegal HGH Market
by Millard Baker
United States Attorney General Eric Holder praised the Justice Department’s use of terrorism laws to disrupt the illegal distribution of human growth hormone (hGH) during his remarks at a Justice Department leadership conference. Holder celebrated the use of the Patriot Act to eliminate a top supplier of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). The Patriot Act law “permitted” the United States to pursue an international biopharmaceutical company and seize millions of dollars “physically located” in another sovereign country.
The successful asset forfeiture codenamed Operation Honor Student resulted in the forfeiture of $2.7 million dollars by Lei Jin, PhD and his company Genescience Pharmaceutical (GeneSci). Jin and GeneSci were indicted as part of Operation Raw Deal in 2007. The defendants were charged with illegally marketing and distributing human growth hormone over the internet to bodybuilders, athletes, and pharmacies (”Remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder at the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces and Asset Forfeiture Program’s National Leadership Conference,” July 22).
Operation Honor Student, a case that will be honored here later tonight, illustrates the power of asset forfeiture and its devastating effect on organized criminal activity. In that case, a task force led by the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations obtained the forfeiture of $2.7 million from the accounts of GeneScience, one of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in China that had been involved in the illegal distribution of Human Growth Hormone into the United States. To accomplish this forfeiture, the task force employed a new statutory vehicle — 18 U.S.C. § 981(k) — which permitted the Government to seize the funds, physically located in China, from the corresponding accounts of Chinese banks in New York. This was the first use of section 981(k), enacted as part of the USA Patriot Act, against a Chinese entity, and its success has helped pave the way for subsequent investigations using this groundbreaking authority.
But not to minimize these impressive legal results, the true impact of Operation Honor Student lies in its practical effect on the illegal hGH market in the United States. Task force agents estimate that at the time of the investigation, GeneScience manufactured approximately 90% of the hGH being illegally sold and distributed in the United States. As a direct result of this seizure, GeneScience has stopped all shipments to the United States. So, through the use of a section 981(k) seizure, we were able to eliminate a supplier that represented 90% of an illegal drug market. Ninety percent. (Emphasis added.)
Genescience Pharmaceutical was well-known among bodybuilders for the high quality and inexpensive human growth hormone that was available on the black market under the brand name Jintropin. Jintropin was a patent protected 191 amino acid hGH made by proprietory secretion technology in China and imported by various individuals and pharmacies in the United States.
After the company was indicted as part of Operation Raw Deal, it discontinued shipment of Jintropin outside of China (where they retain greater than 75% market share of the human growth hormone market).
The asset forfeiture was honored at the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) conference on July 22, 2009