NEWARK – Three Florida men were sentenced Wednesday in New Jersey federal court for their roles in conspiring to possess and sell prescription medication taken from stolen tractor trailers, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ernesto Romero-Vidal a/k/a “Bemba,” 48, was sentenced to 80 months in prison; Rocke R. Lopez-Batista a/k/a “El Nino,” 28, was sentenced to 40 months in prison; and Ariel Garcia, 40, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
All three defendants previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini to separate informations charging them with conspiracy to possess stolen prescription medicine. Romero-Vidal also pleaded guilty to three additional counts of conspiring to receive and sell stolen goods, including pharmaceuticals belonging to drugmakers Bayer, Perrigo and Sandoz Inc.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
During their guilty plea proceedings, Romero-Vidal, Lopez-Batista and Garcia admitted that from September 2009 through October 2009, they conspired with others to possess prescription respiratory medicine manufactured by Mylan Inc. that was taken from a stolen tractor trailer in Tampa, Fla. on Sept. 8, 2009.
On October 20, 2009, Tapanes and a conspirator delivered samples of the stolen prescription medicine to a confidential source in Elizabeth. Nine days later, Tapanes and Garcia delivered a tractor trailer containing the stolen medicine to a confidential source. Later that same day, Tapanes, Lopez-Batista, and Garcia were present at a meeting in Garcia’s home during which the confidential source provided them with a cash payment of $140,000 for the stolen medicine. Romero-Vidal received a payment of $4,000 from the confidential source in connection with his role for brokering this sale.
Romero-Vidal also admitted he received approximately $3,500 for brokering the sale of medication stolen from a Bayer product distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss. on March 23, 2009, and $5,000 as partial payment towards the delivery of stolen Perrigo products – stolen along with a tractor trailer in Dallas on March 3, 2010 – to New Jersey.
He also admitted participating in the sale of Sandoz Inc., prescription respiratory medicine to two separate groups of buyers. The Sandoz products were stolen along with another tractor trailer in Chambersburg, Pa., on Dec. 2, 2009.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Martini sentenced each defendant to pay $264,900 in restitution. The judge also ordered Garcia to serve three years of supervised release, and Lopez-Batista and Romero-Batista each to serve a year of supervised release.
Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen; and detectives of the North Bergen Police Department, under the direction of Chief Robert J. Dowd, with the investigation.
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