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4 sentenced for making unauthorized drugs

NEWNAN - Four people and a Duluth-based pharmaceutical company pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to producing unauthorized generic versions of prescription drugs, the Justice Department announced.

Jared Robert Wheat, 36, of Alpharetta; Stephen Douglas Smith, 40, of Duluth; Tomasz Holda, 45, of Duluth; Sergio Oliveria, 48, of Hoschton and Duluth-based Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals Inc. pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to import and distribute adulterated, mislabeled and unapproved new drugs, and mail and wire fraud.

United States District Court Judge Jack T. Camp accepted the guilty pleas in federal court in Newnan.

The conspiracy offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21, Justice Department spokesman Patrick Crosby said.

Officials said the defendants established a manufacturing facility in a small office park in rural Belize in 2002 and produced unauthorized generic versions of such popular prescription pharmaceuticals as Xanax, Valium, Ambien, Vioxx, Zoloft, Viagra, and Cialis.

They later marketed the drugs primarily via the Web, earning millions before the scheme was disrupted by Belizean authorities and ultimately ended by U.S. authorities, Crosby said.