Google Drug Sales Settlement Involved Evidence Obtained in Sting Operation

Google’s $500 million settlement with the U.S. government over allegations the company aided illegal online drug sales involved evidence the government obtained during a sting operation, The Wall Street Journal reports.

A convicted con artist, David Whitaker, posed as an agent for online drug dealers in email exchanges and phone calls with Google sales executives, according to the newspaper. He spent $200,000 in government funds for ads selling narcotics, steroids and other controlled substances, all while wearing leg irons and guarded by federal agents.

Last summer, Google agreed to pay $500 million to avoid being prosecuted for aiding illegal online pharmaceutical sales. In the settlement, the company acknowledged it had improperly and knowingly assisted online pharmacy advertisers, allegedly based in Canada, to run ads for illegal pharmacy sales that targeted American customers.

Whitaker started an online pharmacy in Mexico in 2006, selling human growth hormone and steroids to American customers through Google ads. These drugs, sold by prescription only in the United States, are popular with body builders who want to bulk up muscles and people who want to slow the signs of aging. The drugs are not approved in the U.S. for these uses, and Google’s policy prohibited advertising them online.

“It was very obvious to Google that my website was not a licensed pharmacy,” Whitaker told the newspaper. “Understanding this, Google provided me with a very generous credit line and allowed me to set my target advertising directly to American consumers.” He was arrested in 2008 for entering that country illegally, and returned to the U.S. to face charges in another case. He told the authorities about how Google allegedly helped his online pharmacy.

Federal prosecutors set up a task force to investigate the allegations, and had Whitaker pose as an agent for advertisers looking to spend a large amount of money with Google. Federal agents set up fake websites for human growth hormone and steroids.

They added websites for weight-loss medications, the abortion pill RU-486, and prescription-only narcotics such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. To end the sting, the agents told Google that Whitaker’s fictional character had died.

5 Responses to Google Drug Sales Settlement Involved Evidence Obtained in Sting Operation

  1. Nancy | January 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Very well done. I had a friend who was living with me at the time go on and order from some company in Canada. She ordered Tramadol for herself and when she got away with that she ordered some for her boyfriend from her laptop at my home and had it sent to her at my address and sent that package to him in Chicago. I informed her that would not be done again in my house. When it was I had no choice, morally but to require her to find a new place to live. I do not believe in ordering any rx strength medicine for myself or for anyone and having it sent to them. They can go to a ligit dr and obtain an rx themself. I think all companies advertising online that they sell those medicines should be prosecuted. This company said they have an online dr who writes and sends all medications. I assure you, no dr called and no contact was made to see why she was ordering tramadol or verifying any sort of need. I turned all information over to her dr (who is also my dr) and I don’t know where it went from there. Her boyfriend has since moved to Kansas to be with her. Neither one is allowed to reside in my home. If I could do anything to help, I would love to!

    • jane bergren | July 10, 2013 at 6:28 am

      i agree nancy !! i live in michigan,and have nowhere to go to get treatment.i want to stop this,i am literally dying from prescription drug addiction.we need more long term rehabs available to poor people.

  2. Circusmaven | January 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    And exactly what are the chances that some of that $500 million Google settlement will be made available to the millions of Americans who need addiction treatment and are not getting it? Some of these people were probably aided in their addiction by the easy on-line availability of drugs.

  3. spam | January 26, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Another smash and grab by the DEA and we wonder where the gangsters learn their tactics. At least with gangsters it’s over when it’s over and they don’t drag you, your family and your reputation down the drain like the prosecutors in this country. Mexico is freedom, USA is military police state.

  4. Pain sufferer | September 5, 2013 at 6:31 am

    Maybe if the government was not so hard on the doctors, which make the doctors such opiophobes, then maybe pain sufferers would not have to resort to on-line pharms, and then there would not be such a high demand for such a product. No one seems to be thinking of this aspect at all.

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