Paralympic curler indicted for alleged drug smuggling
Published Friday, April 30, 2010 3:29PM PDT
Canadian Paralympic curler James Armstrong has been indicted in a U.S. court for allegedly trying to smuggle thousands of counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills into Canada.
Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle accuse the 59-year-old Richmond, B.C., man of picking up fake Viagra and Cialis tablets from a U.S. postal box.
Armstrong was indicted alongside his 28-year-old son, Gregory Armstrong, by a grand jury in Seattle this week on the charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods and selling and dispensing counterfeit drugs with the intent to mislead or defraud.
The charges carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence and $2-million fine.
The two men have been released from custody on bonds, and are scheduled to appear in court again on May 6.
The complaint against Armstrong, which includes a summary of events from special agent Jim A. Burkhardt of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says Armstrong picked up the pills so his son could then distribute them in Vancouver-area nightclubs.
"James Armstrong admitted to retrieving the counterfeit drugs from Blaine, Washington and transporting the drugs to British Columbia, Canada," Burkhardt wrote in the complaint.
"James Armstrong acknowledged that his conduct was illegal."
The court documents say the pills arrived in Los Angeles from China April 7 and were inspected by customs officials. Inside they found 2,544 tablets of a drug labelled as Viagra and 260 tablets of a drug labelled Cialis. Both are erectile dysfunction pills.
Customs officials suspected the tablets were fake and contacted both pharmaceutical providers. Both companies said the pills looked like knock-offs. The Cialis pills seemed far too thick, while the Viagra pills had a different-coloured logo.
The parcel was meant for Blaine and addressed to Carleen Armstrong, the curler's late wife.
Burkhardt said when he arrived in Washington State to further investigate, he was provided with a list of all parcels delivered to the mailbox in the past year.
"The list shows a very large number of parcels or boxes arriving at this postal mail box from various foreign countries including China and India," he wrote in the complaint.
Many of the counterfeit pills that end up in the United States come through China, the complaint reads.
An employee at the postal outlet in Blaine told Burkhardt she was very familiar with Armstrong, because he receives an inordinately high number of shipments from other countries. The employee said Armstrong visits at least once a week to pick up his boxes.
Immediately after his pickup on April 15, he was arrested.
Armstrong participated in his first Paralympics last month and his rink beat South Korea 8-7 in the gold medal game on March 20.
After the win, Armstrong described the moment as bittersweet since Carleen couldn't be there to enjoy it with him. She passed away in September after a battle with cancer.
While the Paralympics marked Armstrong's finest hour in the sport, curling itself was nothing new to him.
He competed in the Brier six times, twice as a skip, and lost on the last rock in the Canadian final in 1987.
Sgt. Duncan Pound with the RCMP's border integrity program said it's not unusual to see someone trying to smuggle counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills across the border.
"Either one of those two main brands definitely do show up for importation into Canada," he said.
With files from The Canadian Press