Last August, the United States Department of Justice announced that Google would forfeit $500 million for allowing Canadian pharmacies to place ads through AdWords, targeting consumers in the U.S. This was deemed “unlawful importation of controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs into the U.S.”
DoJ attorney Peter Neronha (pictured) will hold a press conference in Providence today to announce how the $500 million will be distributed among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, reports Providence Journal (via 9to5Google).
“The result of this investigation has been a fundamental transformation of Internet pharmacy advertising practices, significantly limiting promotion to US consumers by rogue online pharmacies,” said Martin-Weis, acting director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, in the initial DoJ announcement. “This accomplishment could not have been possible without the resourceful commitment of the Rhode Island United States Attorney’s Office, as well as the tireless efforts of our law enforcement partners detailed to the OCI Rhode Island Task Force.”
The announcement said the investigation of Google had origins in a separate, multimillion dollar financial fraud investigation unrelated to Google. The main target of that investigation had fled to Mexico.
“While a fugitive, he began to advertise the unlawful sale of drugs through Google’s AdWords program,” the announcement said. “After being apprehended in Mexico and returned to the United States by the U.S. Secret Service, he began cooperating with law enforcement and provided information about his use of the AdWords program. During the ensuing investigation of Google, the government established a number of undercover websites for the purpose of advertising the unlawful sale of controlled and non-controlled substances through Google’s AdWords program.”
This is all sure to be considered with regards to any announcement about the division of the money.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew J. Reich and Richard B. Myrus of the District of Rhode Island, and FDA/OCI Special Agent Jason Simonian led the investigation. As the DoJ discussed in the announcement, the FDA/OCI Rhode Island Task Force is comprised of law enforcement agents and officers from FDA/OCI, the IRS, Immigration and Customs, the Postal Inspection Service, the Rhode Island State Police, the Rhode Island National Guard, the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General;, the East Providence Police, and the North Providence Police.
There was also assistance from Corbin A. Weiss, Senior Counsel with the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section, and Sarah Hawkins, FDA Senior Counsel.
In other words, a lot of people and agencies were involved. Will $500 million of the search giant’s former money be enough to go around?