Grad student arrested in Internet drug sting

A Temple graduate student was one of 20 people arrested last week for his role in an Internet pharmaceutical drug ring that allegedly had ties to over 100,000 clients in India and cities across the

A Temple graduate student was one of 20 people arrested last week for his role in an Internet pharmaceutical drug ring that allegedly had ties to over 100,000 clients in India and cities across the United States.

Akhil Bansal, 26, a graduate student in the Fox School of Business, allegedly ran the U.S. operation. He is here on a student visa studying risk, insurance and healthcare management.

Bansal is the son of Brij Bhushan Bansal, who is accused of leading the pharmaceutical ring. The elder Bansal had been hospitalized in India, but was later arrested.

“Operation ‘Cyber Chase’ began after the DEA’s Philadelphia Division identified a Philadelphia-based international Internet drug trafficking organization, allegedly headed by Indian nationals Brij Bhusan Bansal and Akhil Bansal. The Bansal Organization allegedly repackaged controlled substances smuggled into the United States from India and other countries and distributed them throughout the U.S. and the world,” according to a press release from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The suspects were arrested over a 48-hour period last week.

On Monday, the Indian Narcotics Control Bureau announced their intent to extradite Bansal and try him in India. The Bureau also said Bansal may have come to Temple only to expand the stateside operations of his father’s drug ring. Bansal was responsible for posting fliers and messages to publicize “wonder drugs,” including anti-depressants, sleeping pills and aphrodisiacs, according to The Statesman, an Indian newspaper.

As a registered physician, Bansal’s father procured the drugs legally, according to the Indian NCB, but the importation and sale of these drugs in the United States was illegal.

Operation “Cyber Chase” comprised the FBI, local police forces and various government agencies. In Philadelphia alone, the DEA, Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Healthcare Fraud division of the FBI, Food and Drug Administration, United States Postal Service, Chester City Police Department and the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division were part of the task force.

Administrators at the Fox School did not return requests for a comment about Bansal’s future at the University.

Police said the group sold pharmaceutical drugs made in India to Web-based suppliers around the world. The Internet suppliers would then sell to buyers without checking for a prescription or other details, such as medical history or age, to legitimize the sale.

The drugs were sold over the Internet for much more than the market value price. This led police to believe that the drugs were being bought by people who were unable to obtain them legally, not by people who were simply looking for cheaper drugs that they had been prescribed.

The Bansal drug ring distributed 2.5 million units of pharmaceutical controlled substances, including Viagra, a drug for impotence, and Ambien, a sleeping medication. Another drug that was sold is Ketamine, an anesthetic that can be used on both animal and humans.

Michael Borenstein, the associate dean at the School of Pharmacy, said that Ketamine is similar in structure to PCP or Angel Dust, but is less potent.

“Reportedly, Ketamine has been associated with date rape, because it can be easily administered in beverages unknowingly. Ketamine has been associated with substance abuse and illicit use and some abusers report effects superior to PCP or LSD,” Borenstein said. He also said the drug is potentially lethal.

“It produces a trance-like state and has been associated with producing psychosis, respiratory depression and cardiovascular complications. The last two may lead to death,” Borenstein said.

The drug, also known as “K,” “Special K,” “Keet” or “Super Acid,” is regulated by the DEA.

Police have the names and credit card numbers of the more than 4,000 people in the Philadelphia area that used these services, though it is unclear if any charges will be pressed by local authorities. The prescription ring allegedly sold over $20 million of the drugs to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Most of the people arrested in the sting operation have been charged with conspiracy to import and distribute drugs, though some laundering charges have also been filed.

Emily Catalano can be reached at Staff writer Christopher Reber contributed to this report.

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