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Woman sentenced for rebranding, selling prohibited drugs from China

SHADYSIDE — A former Shadyside resident has been sentenced in federal court after being convicted of mislabeling weight loss drugs from China and re-selling them.

Crystal Ware, 33, formerly of Shadyside and now an Alabama resident, was sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Columbus to six months of home confinement, three years’ probation and 80 hours of community service.

According to the court, in 2015 Ware bought drugs from China containing Sibutramine — a weight loss drug that was taken off the U.S. market in 2010 because it caused strokes and heart attack. She then re-labeled it and sold it as a safe weight-loss drug.

“In 2015, Ware created the website ‘www.positivevibespositivelife.com’ and registered the trade name ‘Positive Vibes’ in Ohio to promote and sell weight loss products called ‘Burn, Vibe, Vortex, Slimming V and Fruit Fit’ that contained the discontinued Sibutramine,” the court noted.

“Ware would bulk order the original Sibutramine drugs from China, then relabel and resell them at up to eight times the cost. For example, she purchased 160 bottles of drugs for $5.50 to $10 per bottle from China and resold them for $40 per bottle. Ware received more than $17,000 total from the sale of the misbranded drugs.”

The FDA Office of Criminal Investigation received information in 2016 that Ware was operating a business that sold weight loss products that contained undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients. FDA laboratory analysis revealed that Ware’s weight loss products contained Sibutramine as an active ingredient.

“Distributing foreign prescription drugs of unknown origin and ingredients places U.S. consumers at risk,” said Mark S. McCormack, special agent in charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, Metro Washington Field Office. “In this case, the drug had previously been removed from the U.S. market for safety reasons. We will aggressively pursue and bring to justice those who attempt to subvert FDA requirements, which are designed to ensure the safety and quality of drugs distributed to American consumers.”

In November 2018, Ware was charged with and pleaded guilty to receiving misbranded drugs in interstate commerce.

Benjamin C. Glassman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and Mark S. McCormack, special agent in charge, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Metro Washington Field Office, announced the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson.

In a statement emailed to The Times Leader, Ware said Wednesday that she wants to warn others about what kind of “side job” they pursue.

“Be extremely careful getting involved with people who sell anything as their stay at home hustle or side job. … Well-known people were around me doing the same thing. They were ordering Asset Bold bee pollen and putting their own labels on it,” she said.

She said she noticed some people were even advertising their products in the Martins Ferry area.

“I thought to myself if they can, so can I. People had gotten greedy, competitively nasty and started turning people in. Had I ever known it was a serious matter, I wouldn’t ever have done it. Those who know me know, I don’t have a criminal record and I live for my kids every day,” Ware said.

“Either way it was wrong, I took full accountability for my actions, actually begged them to leave others alone who may have sold them too, didn’t put the heat on others to make my situation better and put it all in God’s hands. … Too many people seem to forget at some point in all of our lives we ‘break a rule,’ some rules we just aren’t aware of. I never would have done it, let alone publicly done it, so I could jeopardize my freedom and be taken away from my children.

“To everyone out there, be extremely cautious of selling anything,” Ware said.

Ware said she has been able to see the positives in the experience.

“I mended friendships that I had had for decades, I realized how fragile life is, I realized my butt (needed) to be humbled, I realized I can’t trust and save everyone, I realized a lot about life in general and most importantly myself. God has been on my side through this all and I’m grateful … “ she concluded.

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