October 10, 2018 10:15 PM
As many as 15 vendors at St. Paul's Hmong Village were cited after a search warrant was executed by the Food and Drug Administration and multiple other law enforcement agencies.
Wednesday's raid at the large indoor shopping center was part of a months-long investigation, according to a news release from the St. Paul Police Department.
Steve Linders, a spokesperson with the police department, said the investigation focused on the sale and distribution of "products that could be prescription drugs, with no license to sell them, or creams that might have mercury which is very dangerous."
According to the release, the FDA received multiple reports of illnesses occurring when customers bought items sold by various vendors inside the market that caters to the Hmong community.
"This is about public safety. It's about making sure people don't have access to these dangerous products," said Linders.
Linders said investigators confiscated enough suspected illegal products to fill a U-Haul trailer Wednesday afternoon. There were clear plastic bags filled with pills, powders, substances in I-V tubes and syringes. The packages were either unmarked or labeled incorrectly.
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After educating vendors previously on what is legal for them to sell and what they need a license to sell, the FDA said a pattern of complaints emerged of vendors selling the misbranded medications on the sly to customers who could get pprescription-onlydrugs over the counter.
Thomas Herr manages the large market.
"I walk by them everyday and it's more like supplemental pills and that kind of stuff, we abide by the law, we are productive citizens and good people, I did not have an indication this was going on," he said.
Experts from the Minnesota State Board of Pharmacy were on hand to help identify the confiscated products which are considered illegal because they don't meet FDA standards, aren't approved for sale in the U.S. and it's unknown which country the ingredients come from.
"It could be vendors might now know what is in the products or where they are sourcing them from but the bottom line is we need to get them off the street so no more people get sick," Linders said.
Herr believes the raid could be a teachable moment for his merchants.
"Teach our community, our vendors which product is for sale over the counter and which product is not, is forbidden by the government," he said.
The release said business operations continued during the search for uninvolved vendors.
Police said no arrests were made, but several vendors were cited.
The search was conducted by the Ramsey County Violent Crime Enforcement Team and the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations, along with the help of the St. Paul Police Department, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Saint Paul City Attorney's Office.
Ben Rodgers & Beth McDonough
Updated: October 10, 2018 10:15 PM
Created: October 10, 2018 01:49 PM
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