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Father-Daughter Team Charged For Allegedly Selling Fake Viagra

A father-daughter duo from Orange County has been charged on suspicion of selling a "misbranded" drug that contains an untested chemical analog of a key ingredient in Viagra. The pills, called Vitalex and sourced from compounds made in China, were allegedly marketed as "all-natural" sexual enhancement supplements, federal officials announced Tuesday.

The father, 55-year-old Phu Tan Luong, is serving a 10-year federal prison sentence for health care fraud. His daughter, 26-year-old Helene Ngoc Bich Luong, allegedly helped him run the business after he was committed to prison.

Using money from his health care fraud scheme, federal officials allege, Phu Tan Luong started his Vitapro enterprise and continued to run it even as he was half way through his prison sentence.

The pills contain an analog of a key ingredient in Viagra, Acetildenafil, without testing or approval of the Food and Drug Administration. On top of that, the pills were marketed essentially as herbal supplements, which are usually outside the purview of the FDA. However, in this case, the pills actually did contain what would likely be a prescription drug, if approved. Experts say that such an untested analog could be dangerous.

A search warrant served on the family home in Huntington Beach in 2008 found Vitalex products and packaging, according to a U.S. Attorney's Office statement. The house has been seized as part of the case. Authorities say the suspects shipped the drugs from the residence to locations throughout the United States. They were sold via the internet.

"The FDA-Office of Criminal Investigations is fully committed to investigating and supporting the prosecution of those who may endanger the public's health and safety by manufacturing and selling unsafe products to be used on an unsuspecting public," said Thomas Emerick, special agent in charge of the FDA's L.A. office of criminal investigations.

The father and daughter are each charged with a count of "delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of a misbranded drug," a misdemeanor. Both could face a year in prison if convicted.

Helene Luong, believed to be in Canada, is being sought by authorities.


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