Casino High Roller Gets 15 Years for Adulterated HIV Drug Scam

Posted on: June 20, 2023, 02:04h. 

Last updated on: June 21, 2023, 11:26h.

A “casino high roller” from Miami has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for distributing $230 million in adulterated and misbranded HIV drugs to a network of wholesalers and pharmacies across America. The drugs were then dispensed to unsuspecting patients.

Lazaro Hernandez’s gang flooded the market with cheap adulterated versions of HIV drugs, using fake brand names and forged documentation. (Image: Aidsmap)
Lazaro Hernandez’s gang flooded the market with cheap, adulterated versions of HIV drugs, using fake brand names and forged documentation. (Image: Aidsmap)

Lazaro Hernandez, 51, pleaded guilty in April 2023 to numerous charges related to the counterfeit drug scam, and of laundering the illicit proceeds through casinos and businesses.

Lost Millions at Casinos

Subpoenaed records from an unnamed Las Vegas casino that sponsored Hernandez’s private jet flights from Florida showed that he was a regular high-stakes gambler who lost several million dollars in that casino alone.

The casino filed numerous suspicious activity reports (SARs) on Hernandez, which noted he often wandered into the casino with extremely large amounts of cash inside plastic bags. He also provided casino staff with explanations of where the money came from that were verifiably false, according to court documents.

Prosecutors concluded that he was gambling with the profits of the drug ring and was using the casino to launder money.

Hernandez, also known as “the Godfather” or “Fat Laz,” was named in court documents as the “Kingpin defendant” in a sprawling drug counterfeiting ring that included more than 100 individuals and companies.

The group acquired expensive prescription medications made to treat illnesses such as psychic disorders, cancer, and HIV infections from sources who had obtained them by theft, burglary, and healthcare fraud, as well as those who had received them at greatly reduced prices through Medicare and Medicaid.

‘Dire Danger’

Hernandez and his co-conspirators established wholesale drug distribution companies in Florida, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York to flood the market with bogus drugs at steep discounts to other operators, according to the indictment. They faked brand names and forged documentation to make them seem legit.

The danger these counterfeits pose is dire,” lawyers for Gilead Sciences, whose medical products the group attempted to counterfeit, wrote in court documents. “Those who receive and ingest these counterfeits unwittingly miss their HIV treatment or falsely believe themselves to be protected against HIV infection.

“The foreign drugs in the counterfeit bottles were never prescribed by those individuals’ doctors and could cause serious harm or death….”

Before his guilty plea, Hernandez was facing a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison.