NEWARK, N.J. – A Utah man today admitted illegally selling erectile dysfunction pills that he falsely marketed as herbal supplements for men, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Robert Zeng, 55, of Salt Lake City, Utah, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to an information charging him with one count of introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce with intent to defraud and mislead consumers.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Zeng was the owner of various businesses, including NutopiaUSA, which sold purported natural supplements online and through e-commerce websites. On Feb. 29, 2020, Zeng imported three kilograms of sildenafil, an active ingredient in the brand name prescription drug Viagra, which is approved by the FDA for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Zeng used the sildenafil to manufacture an unapproved and misbranded drug named “Mr. Richard Rocks.”
Zeng falsely marketed and labeled Mr. Richard Rocks as a dietary supplement containing only natural ingredients that treated erectile dysfunction, enhanced sexual performance, improved mood, and reduced blood sugar and cholesterol. The labeling for Mr. Richard Rocks did not disclose the presence of sildenafil, reveal the potentially adverse health consequences that may result from using a product containing sildenafil, nor provide adequate directions for use. Zeng sold Mr. Richard Rocks on the Nutopia website and on e-commerce platforms to consumers across the United States, including in New Jersey, without requiring a prescription.
The felony misbranding charge to which Zeng pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain/loss, whichever is greater. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 26, 2021.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, and special agents of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations’ New York Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey J. Ebersole, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. She also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Utah, under the direction of Acting U.S. Attorney Andrea T. Martinez, and the FBI-Utah, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennis W. Rice in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This case originally arose out of the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, which is coordinating efforts with the Antitrust Division and U.S. Attorneys across the country wherever illegal activity involving protective personal equipment occurs.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Fayer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.
Hidden active pharmaceutical ingredients have been identified in products promoted not only for sexual enhancement, but also for weight loss, bodybuilding and pain relief. The FDA has issued hundreds of public warnings and recall announcements related to these types of fraudulent products. The FDA’s Tainted Products database can help consumers identify some of these potentially harmful products. Even if a product is not included in the list, consumers should be cautious about using these products.