Federal prosecutors announced a 108-count indictment Wednesday against a dozen people and two companies for allegedly selling controlled substances, mainly Viagra and weight-loss drugs, over the Internet illegally.

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The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., charges that customers were able to purchase the drugs with inadequate or no medical supervision, little diagnostic testing and scant monitoring of the person’s response to the drugs as required by law.

The Internet sites used mass e-mail and advertising to sell drugs, giving discounts to customers who bought large quantities.

“Drug trafficking in cyberspace is just as harmful to public safety as drug trafficking on street corners,” said U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty. “The advent of the Internet does not mean doctors and pharmacists can bypass rules concerning the dispensing of prescription drugs, particularly controlled substances.”

Charges include illegal distribution of controlled substances — such as the diet drugs Bontril, Ionamin, Phentermine and Adipex — and illegal use of a communications facility to perform the distribution.

Among those charged was Vineet K. Chhabra, also known as Vincent K. Chhabra, a 32-year-old Golden Beach, Fla. resident described by prosecutors as the main organizer of the scheme. He faces a 20-year sentence if convicted of operating a continuing criminal enterprise and additional prison time if convicted on money laundering, controlled substance violations and other charges.

Also facing multiple counts and more than 20 years in prison are Chhabra’s sister, Sabina S. Faruqui, of Weston, Fla., and their uncle, Sunil K. Sethi. of Midlothian, Va. The CChabra Group LLC and USA Prescription Inc. also were charged as businesses with conspiracy.

Four physicians also were charged in the indictment with illegally allowing their names to appear on vials of drugs dispensed over the Internet.

Besides prison time, the defendants could be forced to forfeit more than $125 million in proceeds from the illegal sales, prosecutors said.

The Justice Department, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration are involved in the investigation.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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