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Canadian online pharmacy pioneer arrested in U.S.

MIAMI (Reuters) – A pioneer of Canada’s online pharmaceutical trade is under arrest in Florida on charges of selling prescription drugs in the United States without ensuring their safety or authenticity.

Andrew Strempler, 39, faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted on the charges.

The government also seeks to recover at least $95 million in proceeds from his alleged conspiracy to sell unlicensed or illegal drugs to U.S. customers, according to a grand jury indictment.

At least some of the drugs, in packages shipped to U.S. clients between January 2005 and June 2006, were either counterfeit or misbranded, according to the year-old indictment.

The case against Strempler was made public as he made his initial appearance in federal court in Miami on Thursday. He was arrested on Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

An attorney for Strempler was not immediately available for comment. He is due to be arraigned next Wednesday.

Strempler is a former head of RxNorth.com, the Internet, mail and telephone order pharmacy whose operations were the focus of the indictment.

As part of his online pharmacy scheme, Strempler set up a facility in the Bahamas to fill orders made through RxNorth with labels stating that they had been filled by RxNorth in Canada, the indictment said.

“Strempler and others caused the individual customer packages to be shipped in bulk from the Bahamas to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands Antilles, from where the individual customer packages were mailed to customers in the United States,” it said.

“It was the purpose of the scheme and artifice of the defendant to unlawfully enrich himself by selling prescription drugs to individuals in the United States, falsely representing that RxNorth was selling safe prescription drugs in compliance with the rules of regulatory authorities in Canada, the United Kingdom and/or the United States,” the indictment said.

RxNorth shut down in January 2008 after Strempler sold it to a competitor.