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Theft of Medical Products - 18 U.S.C. § 670

Medical products are typically intended to treat illnesses, ease symptoms, and improve patients' quality of life. However, when these products are diverted or tampered with, they can also cause great harm. 

For this reason, the federal government has enacted strict laws to protect the supply chain for these products.

Theft of Medical Products - 18 U.S.C. § 670
18 U.S. Code 670 prohibits the unlawful taking of medical products before available for retail.

Under federal statute 18 U.S. Code 670, stealing medical products from the supply chain is a serious federal offense with significant legal consequences.

This crime involves the unlawful taking or obtaining of medical products, which include a wide range of items, from prescription medications to medical devices.

18 U.S.C. 670 says, "(a) Prohibited Conduct. Whoever, in, or using any means or facility of interstate or foreign commerce-

(1) embezzles, steals, or by fraud or deception obtains, or knowingly and unlawfully takes, carries away, or conceals a pre-retail medical product.

(2) knowingly and falsely makes, alters, forges, or counterfeits a pre-retail medical product's labeling or documentation (including documentation relating to origination or shipping).

(3) knowingly possesses, transports, or traffics in a pre-retail medical product that was involved in a violation of paragraph (1) or (2).

(4) with intent to defraud, buy, or otherwise obtain a pre-retail medical product that has expired or been stolen.

(5) with intent to defraud, sell, or distribute a pre-retail medical product that is expired or stolen or

(6) attempts or conspires to violate any of paragraphs (1) through (5) shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) and subject to the other sanctions provided in this section."

If you are convicted of violating this law, you could face significant prison time-mainly if your actions result in someone's injury or death.

What Does the Law Say?

Under 18 U.S.C. 670, Theft of Medical Products is defined as the intentional and unlawful taking, carrying away, or obtaining by fraud or deception any pre-retail medical product (i.e., a medical product that has not yet been offered for sale to consumers).

Specifically, the law makes it a crime to do any of the following:

  • Steal, embezzle, or use deceit to take or hide a medical product before it's sold to the public.
  • Falsify labels or paperwork related to such products.
  • Possess, transport, or sell stolen or fraudulently obtained medical products.
  • Try to buy or sell medical products that are stolen or expired, intending to deceive.
  • Plan or try to commit any of the above actions.

Note that this law only covers the theft of medical products before they are available for retail. Stealing medical products after they hit the market may be prosecutable under other statutes.

What are Aggravating Factors?

The crime is considered more serious and subject to harsher penalties if any of the following are true:

  • The person committing the crime is employed within the medical products supply chain.
  • The crime involves violence or the use of a weapon.
  • The crime results in someone's serious injury or death.
  • The person has prior convictions for stealing medical products.

What are the Elements of the Crime?

To secure a conviction under 18 U.S.C. 670, the prosecution must prove several critical elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You intentionally took or obtained medical products. This means the act was done willfully and with the intent to deprive the rightful owner of the property.
  • The taking was unlawful. It cannot be justified or defended by any claim of right or ownership.
  • The medical products in question were not yet offered for sale to the public. This typically covers products still within the supply chain, such as in warehouses, during transportation, or in storage facilities.

What are Related Federal Offenses?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 31, embezzlement and theft, has numerous federal statutes that are related to section 670, theft of medical products, including the following:

  • 18 U.S.C. 641 - Public money, property, or records,
  • 18 U.S.C. 642 - Tools and materials for counterfeiting purposes,
  • 18 U.S.C. 643 - Accounting generally for public money,
  • 18 U.S.C. 644 - Banker receiving unauthorized deposit of public money,
  • 18 U.S.C. 645 - Court officers generally,
  • 18 U.S.C. 646 - Court officers depositing registry money,
  • 18 U.S.C. 647 - Receiving a loan from a court officer,
  • 18 U.S.C. 648 - Custodians generally misuse public funds,
  • 18 U.S.C. 649 - Custodians failing to deposit money; persons affected,
  • 18 U.S.C. 651 - Disbursing officer falsely certifying full payment,
  • 18 U.S.C. 650 - Depositaries failing to safeguard deposits,
  • 18 U.S.C. 652 - Disbursing officer paying lesser instead of lawful amount,
  • 18 U.S.C. 653 - Disbursing officer misusing public funds,
  • 18 U.S.C. 654 - Officer or employee of the United States converting property of another,
  • 18 U.S.C. 655 - Theft by bank examiner,
  • 18 U.S.C. 656 - Theft, embezzlement, or misapplication by a bank officer or employee,
  • 18 U.S.C. 657 - Lending, credit, and insurance institutions,
  • 18 U.S.C. 658 - Property mortgaged or pledged to farm credit agencies,
  • 18 U.S.C. 659 - Interstate or foreign shipments by carrier; State prosecutions,
  • 18 U.S.C. 660 - Carrier's funds derived from commerce; State prosecutions,
  • 18 U.S.C. 661 - Within special maritime and territorial jurisdiction,
  • 18 U.S.C. 662 - Receiving stolen property within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction,
  • 18 U.S.C. 663 - Solicitation or use of gifts,
  • 18 U.S.C. 664 - Theft or embezzlement from an employee benefit plan,
  • 18 U.S.C. 665 - Theft or embezzlement from employment and training funds; improper inducement; obstruction of investigations,
  • 18 U.S.C. 666 - Theft or bribery with programs receiving Federal funds,
  • 18 U.S.C. 667 - Theft of livestock,
  • 18 U.S.C. 668 - Theft of major artwork,
  • 18 U.S.C. 669 - Theft or embezzlement in connection with healthcare. 

What are the Penalties?

The penalties for violating 18 U.S.C. 670 can be severe, depending on the alleged crime's circumstances. Specifically, theft of medical products can result in the following penalties:

  • For general offenses with no aggravating circumstances: Up to three years in prison. Up to 15 years if the value of stolen goods exceeds $5000.
  • If force or a weapon were used, or if you have prior convictions under this law: Up to five years in prison. Up to 20 years if the value of stolen goods exceeds $5000.
  • If your actions result in someone's severe bodily injury or death: Up to 30 years in prison.

In addition to the above, the court can assess civil fines equal to three times the amount of economic loss caused by the theft, or $1 million, whichever is greater.

What are the Common Defenses?

Despite the severity of this offense, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney can employ several defenses to counter charges under U.S.C. 670. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of Intent. To procure a conviction, prosecutors must show that your actions were willful. If it can be shown that the act was accidental or unintentional, this may negate one of the essential elements required for conviction.
  • Consent. If you had permission or believed you had permission to take the medical products, this can serve as a viable defense. This demonstrates that no unlawful taking can lead to charges being dismissed.
  • Coercion or Duress. If you were forced to participate in the theft under threat of harm, you might have a defense of coercion or duress. This defense requires proving that you were compelled to commit the crime due to immediate threats of severe bodily harm or death.
  • Mistaken Identity. In some cases, the defense might argue that the wrong person has been accused. Evidence such as alibis, surveillance footage, or eyewitness testimony can be crucial in establishing that you were not involved in the theft.

Contact our federal criminal defense law firm for more information. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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