updated 3/6/2008 4:53:56 PM ET 2008-03-06T21:53:56

Criminal charges have been filed against officials of two companies that allegedly imported and distributed more than 70,000 tubes of Chinese toothpaste containing a poisonous substance, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo announced Thursday.

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Vernon Sales Inc. and Selective Imports Corp. allegedly sold toothpaste containing diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent.

Selective Imports, based in Vernon, distributed the toothpaste to distributors throughout the country between December 2005 and May 2007, prosecutors said. Vernon Sales, also based in Vernon, is accused of buying and reselling some of the tubes to Los Angeles stores.

The charges announced Thursday were filed on Tuesday, said Frank Mateljan, spokesman for Delgadillo.

Vernon Sales President Kamyab Toofer and Vice President Pejman Mossay were each charged with 14 criminal counts for allegedly receiving, selling and delivering an adulterated drug.

Selective Imports President Frahad Nazarian and Vice President Yones Ghermezi were charged with two criminal counts each for receiving, selling and delivering products containing the chemical known as DEG.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Ghermezi said he had not seen the charges but was shocked by the filing. All the adulterated toothpaste was voluntarily pulled from shelves and from the company's inventory eight months ago and destroyed by the federal Food and Drug Administration last month.

"Everything we had was destroyed by the FDA," he said. "Long time it hasn't been sold. ... I thought the file had been closed."

Ghermezi said he supplied the toothpaste to Vernon Sales.

Ghermezi said his company never knowingly sold adulterated toothpaste and believed the product had FDA approval.

"We didn't know of the ingredients of the toothpaste," he said. "We don't (have) any intention of hurting people."

A fax to Vernon Sales seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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