SALT LAKE CITY — The CEO of a Utah-based pharmacy company at the center of the state's controversial purchase of a stockpile of hydroxychloroquine has pleaded guilty to illegally importing the drug from China.
Dan Richards, the owner of Meds in Motion, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in U.S. District Court on Friday. He admitted to illegally importing a chloroquine drug from a Chinese supplier that was labeled “Boswellia Serrata Extract." It was not approved by the FDA, federal prosecutors said.
Richards, who struck a deal with federal prosecutors, faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine when he is sentenced in March.
Richards had a contract with the state of Utah to get a stockpile of hydroxychloroqine when lawmakers viewed it as a treatment for COVID-19. But questions arose about the contract, and then-Governor Gary Herbert said the purchase was made "unbeknownst to me."
Utah later got an $800,000 refund on the stockpile and it remains unknown who ordered the purchase. Medical studies have found the drug is ineffective at treating COVID-19.
It appears federal authorities were also probing that deal the state entered into.
"This office, with our partners at the FDA and FBI, pursued every meaningful investigative lead in this matter, and fully examined the facts and circumstances surrounding this federal offense," said United States Attorney John W. Huber in a statement. "This is the just outcome of that thorough investigation, and it will conclude our review."
Senate President J. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, supported early efforts to secure a stockpile of the drug. But he told FOX 13 in a statement he did not know about the illegal method to procure the drug.
"Early efforts were focused on searching for treatment for COVID-19. While we understood hydroxychloroquine may or may not be effective in treating COVID-19, there were concerns of a supply shortage for those currently being prescribed the medicine. We were concentrating on saving lives and livelihoods," Sen. Adams said. "To be clear, I had no prior knowledge of the charges, and I learned of the federal indictment and the mislabeling through media reports. I support federal agencies' efforts in enforcing the law."