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Charges dropped against doctor for Internet crimes

Reading about federal drug charges is nothing new to Californians. Bordering on Mexico, California has long been a central player in the trafficking world, but the nature of drug trafficking has changed dramatically. Today, rather than risk transporting drugs along vast highways populated with state and local law enforcement, many traffickers are beginning to sell and ship products online, resulting in a new class of internet-related federal charges.

In a recent case involving the largest prosecution of Internet pharmacies in the United States, federal agents have acquired more than 400,000 documents and two terabytes of electronic evidence. Among those initially charged was a Miami doctor federal agents accused of selling prescription drugs to his patients without medical exams or interviews. After coming under investigation in 2004 the doctor fled to his homeland of Panama.

Despite the large amount of evidence federal prosecutors claim to have against the doctor, the federal judge presiding over the matter dismissed the charges at the prosecutors request. Prosecutors claim the continued storage of the material would be both difficult and expensive. Plus, the Panamanian government refuses to extradite the man to the U.S.

The case, which began in 2003, led to the conviction of 26 individuals, including 19 doctors, and resulted in federal agents shutting down two Internet pharmacies. According to federal authorities, the two pharmacies in question sold nearly 30 million pills to customers online.

Internet crimes, including the sale of illegal drugs, can pose serious penalties and unique obstacles for criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors alike. Everyone has a right to privacy, even online. Protecting privacy, enforcing procedures, and making sure prosecutors have enough evidence to press charges are just a few of the steps that need to be taken.

Source: Associated Press, "Drug charges dropped because of too much evidence," Ryan J. Foley, Aug. 15, 2012

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