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The real makers of the popular energy supplement 5-Hour Energy, Living Essential, were pleased this week when a California jury found two individuals guilty of manufacturing counterfeit 5-Hour Energy drinks. The federal charges allege that the criminal drink makers produced millions of counterfeit bottles using unknown ingredients in an unsanitary facility. The couple could face over a decade in jail and $2 million in fines. Their conviction comes after the resolution of the consolidated civil suit earlier this year against more than 20 individuals, all involved in a conspiracy to make and sell fake 5-Hour Energy shots.
The convicted Southern California couple initially had a legitimate deal with Living Essential to distribute 5-Hour Energy drinks in Mexico. However, the initial deal provided the couple with Spanish labeled bottles which they relabeled and then sold in the US below the US market rate. The following year, the couple set up the manufacturing scheme to make the counterfeit drinks.
Since 2012, Living Essential has been trying to rid the market of counterfeit 5-Hour Energy drinks. At that time, the FDA began an investigation into the claims that several people had died as a result of drinking the popular energy drink. During their own investigation, Living Essential discovered over 2 million bottles of counterfeit 5-Hour Energy drinks.
When they discovered the problem of fake products, they aggressively began pursuing the individuals making and selling the products. As part of their civil lawsuit, they have been awarded $20 million. The judgment was awarded against numerous individuals, including the two Southern Californians that were recently convicted.
While the FDA does quite a bit to keep consumers and the public safe, prosecuting individuals for counterfeiting food and beverage items had never been done before. The fake drink was being produced in unsanitary conditions. Additionally, millions of bottles had been produced. The FDA most frequently protects consumers by utilizing preventative measures such as inspections. However, as this recent case shows, the FDA has the power to bring criminal and civil prosecutions to stop violators.
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