REDMOND, Wash. — Msnbc.com's exclusive report on a once thriving company with a popular line of natural dietary supplements revealed an unusual criminal case unfolding in federal court in Atlanta. Prosecutors allege that Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals of Norcross, Ga., was a criminal enterprise that sold dangerous “spiked” products and was run by executives who considered assassination and blackmail to stop a federal investigation.
In an original story exclusive to msnbc.com, Mike Brunker, projects team editor, reported that the allegations are the most far-ranging ever leveled against a large company in the unregulated dietary supplement industry. The allegations, found in the court filings, state that some or all of the defendants:
* Discussed killing a U.S. Food and Drug Administration agent and blackmailing an assistant U.S. attorney. Neither plot was carried out, but a company co-founder was subsequently jailed after being convicted of being a felon in possession of a “firearm silencer.”
* Used the herbal stimulant ephedra in company diet products after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned its use on April 12, 2004, finding it presented “an unreasonable risk of illness or injury.”
* Sold "herbal" supplements that actually contained the active ingredients of prescription drugs that could interact dangerously with other medications.
* Illegally imported and sold banned steroids.
* Manufactured phony ecstasy tablets that were sold on U.S. streets.
* Created a muscle-building drink that was later marketed as a cleaning solution in an effort to mislead investigators.
The allegations spring from the September 7, 2006, indictment of the company and 11 executives, employees and associates for allegedly operating an illegal Internet pharmacy in Belize.
The full story, titled “Dietary supplements firm or herbal cabal?” is available at: