Dismantling of a counterfeit medication trafficking and export network

April 7, 2021
Longueuil, Quebec

News release


Some of the counterfeit pills seized during the investigation. They come in shapes and colours that mimic the appearance of real pharmaceutical pills.
The RCMP Clandestine Lab Enforcement Team was deployed to one of the search sites.
A sample of seized counterfeit Xanax. Laboratory analysis revealed that they contained etizolam, an illegal substance in Canada associated with a high number of fatal overdoses worldwide.
Packages containing the counterfeit pharmaceutical pills were sent from Montréal and the surrounding area to the United States, Quebec and elsewhere in Canada through various shipping companies.

This morning, members of the RCMP's Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit arrested two individuals suspected of operating a network responsible for trafficking and exporting hundreds of thousands of counterfeit pharmaceutical products.

The search warrants executed in Vieux-Longueuil and Saint-Hubert resulted in the seizure of several hundred thousand counterfeit pills, presumed to contain etizolam and methamphetamine. Packaging material for drug distribution as well as material used for mailing packages were also found on site. The searches are still ongoing.

Trafficking and exportation by mail

The investigation began after U.S. authorities seized four packages sent from Quebec containing thousands of counterfeit pharmaceutical pills, primarily Xanax and its generic forms. In response, our investigators opened an investigation in Quebec and traced the criminal organization behind the shipments. They discovered that once the purchase transactions were completed, packages containing the counterfeit pills were sent from Montréal and the surrounding area to customers in the United States, Quebec and elsewhere in Canada through various shipping companies. This RCMP's joint investigation with Homeland Security Investigations – New York led to the seizure of hundreds of packages in transit to the United States and Canada, avoiding the illicit substance to be in circulation onto the market.

Dangers of etizolam

While this medication normally contains alprazolam, laboratory analysis of the counterfeit pills seized during the investigation revealed that most of them contained etizolam. It is a central nervous system depressant in the benzodiazepine family. Although etizolam is legitimately prescribed in some countries for its anxiolytic and sedative effects, etizolam is also associated with a growing number of overdoses when used non-medically. Laboratory analyses will be necessary in order to determine if etizolam is a component of the pills seized today.

Charges laid

The individuals met with the investigators and were released pending further procedures. Pursuant to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, they will face charges of trafficking and exporting illegal substances at a later date.

Public appeal

Do you have information on the illegal activities of individuals or groups of individuals? Contact the RCMP at 514-939-8300/1-800-771-5401 or your local police department.

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