Search warrant on Saipan linked to Guam raid related to Covid-19

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HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that a search warrant executed in Saipan on Monday is related to an ongoing Covid-19-related investigation into a Guam medical supplier.

The investigations are part of Operation Stolen Promise, the Homeland Security Investigations' global campaign to combat Covid-19-related fraud.

A spokeswoman for HSI, Lori Haley, confirmed the warrant was executed in Saipan but didn't specify where. On Tuesday on Guam, HSI and Immigration Customs Enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the MedPharm Group of Companies compound in Dededo.

The MedPharm group operates a chain of pharmacies on the island and is one of Guam's largest suppliers of medicine and medical supplies. MedPharm also has an office in Saipan.

A reporting team from the Guam Daily Post was outside MedPharm's Guam compound on Wednesday when two managers were seen entering the compound. When asked for comment, one of them said, "later on," and kept on walking.

An agent with the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations exits the MedPharm compound in Dededo, Guam with a box after a search warrant was served at the site. Photo by David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

MedPharm has been a key vendor to Guam's response against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Purchase orders released to the Post indicate Public Health had ordered nearly $167,000 worth of face masks, gloves, transport medium, equipment and other supplies from MedPharm.

The largest order in the available documents is $129,108 for what appears to be laboratory equipment related to Covid-19 testing.

Public Health Director Linda Unpingco-DeNorcey was unavailable for comment.

However, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero did say she was unaware of the investigation into MedPharm until a news report about it came out. The Post covered the raid at the MedPharm compound on Tuesday.

"I was actually surprised when someone forwarded me the article. Of course, I asked (the head) of my executive security, 'Are you aware of this?'" the governor said. "He was not either. He said he thought it was a counterfeit issue. So whatever they're saying in the media is the extent of my awareness."

Commenting on the raid at MedPharm in Dededo, Haley told the Post Tuesday that "special agents were executing a search warrant in relation to an ongoing criminal investigation regarding public safety."

The MedPharm Group's chief executive officer is Renerio "Rene" Ramos and Wilma Ramos is the vice president.

MedPharm also runs Express Med Pharmacy, Express Med Pharmacy 2, Perezville Pharmacy, Sagan Amot Pharmacy and Minutes RX Pharmacy.

MedPharm statement

MedPharm issued the following statement on Thursday:

“The warrant that was executed at our warehouse location in Guam and Saipan relates to a product called SDS Blocker.

“The product was marketed and sold to MedPharm as an over-the-counter item by a local Guam distributor. We have voluntarily removed the product from our inventory.

“ ‘We take these matters very seriously and we are cooperating fully with all authorities,’ said Rene H. Ramos, president of MedPharm Inc. ‘Once we were informed by the federal authorities that the product supplied by a local distributor did not meet federal standards, we immediately took action and removed the product from our inventory. This is an isolated event specifically related to the sale of the SDS Blocker product we purchased locally and sold via our wholesale company. The warrant was not related to any other items or operations involving our company. The prescription drugs dispensed in all our pharmacies are legitimate, U.S. sourced and manufactured under strict FDA regulatory compliance.’ ”

MedPharm said it is a leading supplier, wholesaler, and distributor of quality healthcare products including medical equipment and supplies, dental equipment and supplies, radiological, laboratory equipment and supplies as well as pharmaceutical and Biomed Engineering services to the South Pacific islands including Guam, Saipan, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Fiji, Samoa and American Samoa.

 

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