The owner and operator of Candy Color Lenses, a major online retailer of colored contact lenses in the United States, was sentenced to 46 months in prison for running an international operation importing counterfeit and misbranded contact lenses from suppliers in Asia, and then selling them over the internet without a prescription to tens of thousands of customers in the U.S..
In addition to imposing a prison sentence, U.S. District Judge James C. Mahan of the District of Nevada ordered the 30-year old defendant, Dmitriy V. Melnik, to remit $200,000 in restitution and forfeit $1.2 million in proceeds derived from the scheme as well as property seized during the investigation. Melnik pleaded guilty before Judge Mahan on Sept. 8, 2016, to one count of conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and to introduce into interstate commerce misbranded devices.
According to the plea agreement, Melnik imported large quantities of colored contact lenses from the People’s Republic of China and South Korea that he knew were counterfeit and/or unauthorized by the FDA for sale in the United States. Many of these contact lenses bore labels with counterfeit trademarks for Ciba Vision FreshLook COLORBLENDS, which are manufactured by Novartis International AG (Novartis), and others bore labels of contact lense brands produced and sold in Asia, he admitted.
As stipulated in the plea agreement, contact lenses—even decorative ones—are medical devices that if not fitted, worn, or cared for properly can result in serious eye injury including blindness, and must receive prior FDA authorization to enter the U.S. and be further distributed. Melnik admitted, however, that he sold purportedly “authentic” contact lenses to tens of thousands of customers around the United States without a prescription, adequate directions for use or adequate warnings. After purchasing the contact lenses, many customers complained directly to Melnik about the quality of the contact lenses and questioned Melnik about whether the contact lenses were genuine and FDA approved. Melnik admitted that many of the contact lenses that he sold were substandard, and that some were tested and found to be contaminated with a potentially dangerous bacteria.
A substantial part of the fraudulent scheme was committed from outside the United States, and Melnik received at least $1.2 million in gross revenue from this illegal enterprise, including approximately $200,000 alone from the sale of counterfeit Ciba Vision FreshLook COLORBLENDS.
The prosecution is the result of an ongoing multiagency effort to combat counterfeit, illegally imported and unapproved contact lenses called Operation Double Vision.
Anyone with information about individuals committing intellectual property offenses in the U.S. can report those crimes to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center or call (866) IPR-2060.
Source: Department of Justice