Gang convicted of running multimillion-pound fake medicine operation

Credit: CPS

A group based in the Black Country has been convicted of running a multimillion-pound fake medicines business, including anti-anxiety tablets such as Xanax.

Brian Pitts, known online as Milkman, along with his partner Katie Harlow and father-in-law Lee Lloyd, coordinated the production and sale of counterfeit tablets online from Thailand.

All three were charged with money laundering, selling over £4m worth of drugs with plans to produce more.

The tablets were made in makeshift factories in garages and sheds in the UK, using pill presses and ingredients from China.

They sold the drugs on the Dark Web, mainly to the USA and accepted payment in Bitcoin.

The group also included Mark Bayley and Deborah Bellingham, who used their Wolverhampton and Tipton addresses as manufacturing sites, Anthony Pitts, who fixed the presses, Bladen Roper, who travelled to Oxfordshire to buy materials for pill production and Jordan Pitts, Kyle Smith, and Scott Tonkinson, who helped run the business.

Packages of tablets were intercepted in the UK and US, involving close cooperation with US authorities.

The packages, found to contain counterfeit Xanax, had return addresses linked to the defendants, with Brian Pitt’s fingerprints found on the inside of one parcel.

Phone records showed that accounts used by Brian Pitts, Harlow, and Lloyd controlled the Dark Web marketplaces and were connected to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies used to buy counterfeit Xanax.

Jonathan Kelleher from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This was a case of fake medicines being produced on an industrial scale, with significant potential harm to the public. These drugs should only be prescribed by a doctor and anyone buying them on the Dark Web, produced in a back-garden shed, has no clue what they are taking.

“Brian Pitts and his associates were not concerned with these dangers and only saw a money-making opportunity. The CPS worked closely with the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit, including experts in cyber-crime given that much of this offending took place online, to prosecute these organised criminals and protect the public from this harmful trade.”

Two individuals were convicted yesterday at Wolverhampton Crown Court for their roles in the operation to supply controlled drugs. Eight others, including the ringleader Brian Pitts, had previously pleaded guilty.

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