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State Police Seek Illegal Pharmaceuticals

Search warrants served at two Herndon Hispanic community markets.

An investigation into the alleged sale of illegal birth control pharmaceuticals by two Herndon markets is ongoing after state police, federal officials and the Herndon Police Department joined together last week to serve search warrants at the two locations.

Officials served the search warrants on the morning of Sept. 20 at El Mercadito Hispano on the 400 block of Elden Street and El Supermercado Market on the 900 block of Alabama Drive in Herndon with the intent to discover any illegal pharmaceuticals being distributed or imported by the two businesses, according to court records and the Virginia State Police. Neither business is licensed to sell pharmaceuticals, according to court documents.

The searches discovered no illegal pharmaceuticals at El Supermercado Market, but a substantial number of the non-registered birth control pills were allegedly found at El Mercadito Hispano, according to special agent Michael Sponheimer of the Virginia State Police, in charge of the investigation.

No charges have been filed against anyone involved in the case as of September 28, Sponheimer added.

Investigations into the sale of illegal birth control pills are not something that occurs on a regular basis, according Virginia State Police spokesperson Sgt. Terry Licklider.

The investigation and execution of the search warrants were conducted along with agents of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In particular, officials were looking for evidence of the sale or importation of unapproved pharmaceuticals by an unlicensed business without the use of a prescription, according to a search warrant.

Lt. Don Amos of the Herndon Police Department, who was present when the search warrant was served, agreed. "This is not something that we see very often at all, I can't recall anything like this happening before," said Amos.

"Something like this isn't just dangerous to the Latino community but anybody in Herndon," he added. "Just because it was sold among the Latino community doesn't mean that anybody could have gone in there and made the purchase," of the pills.

THE INVESTIGATION into the possible sale of the illegal birth control pills was initiated after Virginia State Police were informed that birth control pills had allegedly been purchased at El Supermercado Market without a prescription.

The information came through employees of the Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon after three women attending a free health seminar claimed that they had become pregnant despite taking the pills, according to court documents.

A subsequent investigation conducted by the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Health Professions uncovered that the locations where the women claimed to have bought the pills did not have state licenses to sell pharmaceuticals, according to information obtained in the search warrant. Officials from the Virginia Department of Health Professions did not return any phone calls requesting an interview.

Subsequent attempts made by undercover officers of the Virginia State Police Department to purchase the pills without prescriptions were successful on multiple occasions, the search warrant stated.

The pills that were purchased by undercover officers were labeled as "Nueva Perla" oral contraceptives, a brand that is not approved for sale in the United States. In addition, the packaging was primarily printed in Spanish, which fails to meet a national requirement for all pharmaceuticals to have labels printed in English, the search warrant continued.

All of the crimes that are being investigated are felonies under Virginia state law, according to Virginia State Police.