Seven charged in alleged drug theft ring

July 19, 2011 2:09:35 PM PDT
A Houston business owner and six others have been arrested amid allegations they stole over-the-counter medications from drug stores across the nation and sold them.

On Tuesday, authorities unsealed the 29-count indictment against 33-year-old Mohammad Zainaldin, the owner of Quick Gas and Lube on Westheimer, Innessa Stafeyeva,23, Carlos Reyes Roque 40, Marcos Ascencio Perdomo, 35, Irma Hernandez, 34, Ana Ramos, 30, and Claudia Flores, 35, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The suspects are charged with conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise in interstate commerce, structuring monetary transactions to evade reporting requirements, money laundering and substantive counts of transporting stolen goods and structuring as well as seeks to forfeit the interest of the defendants in the illicitly obtained proceeds.

Authorities allege that Zainladin used the other six suspects to steal, deliver and store the stolen drugs at his warehouse off Westpark Drive. The suspects would use aluminum foil-lined bags to steal the medicines from pharmacies and retail stores in several states. Out-of-state thefts then would allegedly be shipped to Zainladin via FedEx of UPS to avoid detection by law enforcement officials during routine traffic stops. Zainladin would then withdraw $10,000 or less, allegedly to avoid bank reporting requirements, to pay the suspects for their services.

Zainladin and Flores were arrested at their homes, while Stafeyeva and Ramos were taken into custody at Zainladin's warehouse on Westpark Drive and HSI offices in Houston, respectively. Reyes-Roque and Perdomo are presently in federal custody on unrelated criminal charges.

Conspiracy to transport stolen merchandise in interstate commerce and to structure carries a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

Conspiracy to launder proceeds of greater than $10,000 from the alleged interstate transportation of stolen property carries a maximum punishment of 10 years and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

Structuring financial transactions to avoid currency reporting requirements carries a maximum penalty of 10 years and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

Each count of transporting stolen goods and structuring carries a maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine upon conviction.

Zainladin, Flores, Stafeyeva and Ramos are scheduled to make their first court appearance on Wednesday. A court date for the remaining suspects has yet to be set.