Monett store owners admit they sold drugs

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The owners of a Mexican grocery store in Monett admitted to illegally selling prescription drugs that were smuggled into the United States from Mexico.

The guilty pleas were made in federal court on Feb. 8 by Efren Moreno, Sr., 46, his wife, Eloisa M. Soto, 44, and their son, Efren Moreno, Jr., 23, all of Monett. The Morenos are owners of La Durangena grocery store located at 310 E. Broadway in Monett.

Efren Moreno, Sr., and Soto pleaded guilty to one count of dispensing prescription drugs without supervision of a medical practitioner and one count of goods smuggling. Efren Moreno, Jr., pleaded guilty to one count of receipt and delivery for pay of misbranded drugs.

The family admitted that they bought, sold and concealed the drugs at their store from December of 2003 to April 29, 2004. Both prescription and non-prescription drugs smuggled from Mexico were seized from the store.

The drugs, none of which may be lawfully landed in the United States, included Pen-trexyl Ampicilina, Penprocilina, XL-3 Antigripal, Duals Adulto, Neo-Melubrina, Agin and Terramicina.

On April 21, 2004, Efren Moreno, Sr., was caught selling Pentrexyl Ampicilina at the store to a cooperating individual who did not have a prescription for the drug, which is used for the treatment of a closed or swollen throat and is not safe for use except under the supervision of a lawfully licensed medical practitioner.

The drugs that were received and sold through the Monett grocery store were also labeled in Spanish and not in English, which is another violation of federal law.

By pleading guilty, Efren Moreno, Sr., and Soto could receive sentences of up to eight years in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $500,000. Efren Moreno, Jr., could face a sentence of up to one year in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $100,000.

The guilty pleas were received by U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge James C. England.

The case against the Morenos and Soto is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard E. Monroe. It was investigated by the Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Monett Police Department.

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