Meet the career con man who made a fortune selling illegal pharmaceuticals online—and pulled off a federal sting that forced Google to pay $500 million.
On February 25, 2009, a then 34-year-old career con man named David Anthony Whitaker left the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and slid into the backseat of an unmarked government car. He was dressed in traditional prison garb—khaki pants, brown shirt, handcuffs, leg irons. A federal agent sat beside him. A second car followed to make sure nobody trailed them or attempted an ambush. Not that anyone expected trouble. This was merely standard procedure when transporting a government cooperator.
That’s what Whitaker was now: a cooperator. It felt surreal. One year ago he was in Mexico, living the most fulfilling life he’d ever known in his chaotic, troubled years on the planet. He had been bringing in obscene amounts of money by selling black-market steroids and human growth hormone online. He had a multimillion-dollar apartment in a country club in Guadalajara. He had a cabin in the mountain town of Mazamitla. He had lots of cars—an orange 4Runner, a BMW, a Jeep. He’d even funded the construction of a local hospital. Sure, he had to live under an alias and was on the run from US Secret Service agents who were trying to nail him for a long-standing multicount fraud complaint. But he had a lawyer on retainer, and at least the local cops were easy to pay off.
That life ended on March 19, 2008, when a Mexican immigration agent nabbed Whitaker and brought him back to LAX, where the Secret Service promptly arrested him. He was facing a potential sentence of 65 years in prison. Sixty-five years. That meant spending the rest of his life behind bars. The thought was unbearable.
Whitaker filled vials with water and sold them as steroids for $1,000 a pop.
Whitaker began thinking of ways to knock years off his sentence. He considered providing the names of the drug users, pushers, and doctors who had patronized his online steroid business. They were mostly easy marks, and Whitaker was quick to take advantage of them. For a while he bottled sterile water in 1-milliliter vials, marketed it as a steroid called Dutchminnie, and sold it for $1,000 a pop. Not only did clients fall for the scam, they sent back photos showing how they’d bulked up after using the “drug.”
But he quickly realized that he could offer the government much more than the names of a few juicers. At one point during a meeting with Whitaker and his lawyer, the Feds asked him how he had grown his online enterprise. Whitaker’s answer was immediate: He had used Google AdWords. In fact, he claimed, Google employees had actively helped him advertise his business, even though he had made no attempt to hide its illegal nature. It was reasonable to assume, Whitaker said, that Google was helping other rogue Internet pharmacies too.
Read it all at Wired.
The epic inside story of long-term criminal fraud at Ranbaxy, the Indian drug company that makes generic Lipitor for millions of Americans.
1. The assignment
FORTUNE — On the morning of Aug. 18, 2004, Dinesh Thakur hurried to a hastily arranged meeting with his boss at the gleaming offices of Ranbaxy Laboratories in Gurgaon, India, 20 miles south of New Delhi. It was so early that he passed gardeners watering impeccable shrubs and cleaners still polishing the lobby’s tile floors. As always, Thakur was punctual and organized. He had a round face and low-key demeanor, with deep-set eyes that gave him a doleful appearance.
His boss, Dr. Rajinder Kumar, Ranbaxy’s head of research and development, had joined the generic-drug company just two months earlier from GlaxoSmithKline, where he had served as global head of psychiatry for clinical research and development. Tall and handsome with elegant manners, Kumar, known as Raj, had a reputation for integrity. Thakur liked and respected him.
Like Kumar, Thakur had left a brand-name pharmaceutical company for Ranbaxy. Thakur, then 35, an American-trained engineer and a naturalized U.S. citizen, had worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) in New Jersey for 10 years. In 2002 a former mentor recruited him to Ranbaxy by appealing to his native patriotism. So he had moved his wife and baby son to Gurgaon to join India’s largest drugmaker and its first multinational pharmaceutical company.
When he stepped into Kumar’s office that morning, Thakur was surprised by his boss’ appearance. He looked weary and uneasy, his eyes puffy and dark. He had returned the previous day from South Africa, where he had met with government regulators. It was clear that the meeting had not gone well.
The two men strolled into the hall to order tea from white-uniformed waiters. As they returned, Kumar said, “We are in big trouble,” and motioned for Thakur to be quiet. Back in his office, Kumar handed him a letter from the World Health Organization. It summarized the results of an inspection that WHO had done at Vimta Laboratories, an Indian company that Ranbaxy hired to administer clinical tests of its AIDS medicine. The inspection had focused on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that Ranbaxy was selling to the South African government to save the lives of its AIDS-ravaged population.
Read it all HERE.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves, located just outside the main Waitomo township on the North Island of New Zealand, is a famous attraction because of a sizeable population of glowworms that live in the caves. Glowworms or Arachnocampa luminosa are tiny, bioluminescent creatures that produce a blue-green light and are found exclusively in New Zealand….The Waitomo Glowworm Caves were first explored in 1887 by local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau accompanied by an English surveyor Fred Mace. Local Maori people knew of the Caves existence, but the subterranean caverns had never been extensively explored until Fred and Tane went to investigate. They built a raft of flax stems and with candles in hand, floated into the cave where the stream goes underground….As they entered the caves, they came across the Glowworm Grotto and were amazed by the twinkling glow coming from the ceiling. As they travelled further into the cave by poling themselves towards an embankment, they were also astounded by the limestone formations.
Only confirmed photograph of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, before giving his famous address, November 19, 1863.
The Cicada’s Love Affair With Prime Numbers
As far back as the seventeen-hundreds, fur trappers for the Hudson’s Bay Company noted that while in some years they would collect an enormous number of Canadian lynx pelts, in the following years hardly any of the wild snow cats could be found—until, some years later, when the trappers found themselves again deluged with an abundance of lynx. Later research revealed that the rise and fall (and subsequent rise and fall) of the lynx population correlated with the rise and fall of the lynx’s favorite food: the snowshoe hare. A bountiful year for the hares meant a plentiful year for lynxes, while dismal hare years were often followed by bad lynx years. The hare booms and busts followed, on average, a ten-year cycle.
That still left an unanswered question: What was behind the rise and fall of the hare populations? A recent hypothesis is that the population of hares rises and falls due to a mixture of population pressure and predation: when hares overpopulate their environment, the population becomes stressed—the fact that the food supply is gobbled up certainly doesn’t help—which can lead to decreased reproduction, resulting in a drop in next year’s hare count. Meanwhile, predators like lynxes and raptors celebrate the hare bubble by gorging themselves and reproducing like mad. The subsequent decline in hares can lead to a drop in the swollen predator population; fewer predators can then result in more hares surviving to reproduce; and the cycle begins again.
Now, imagine an animal that emerges every twelve years, like a cicada. According to the paleontologist Stephen J. Gould, in his essay “Of Bamboo, Cicadas, and the Economy of Adam Smith,” these kind of boom-and-bust population cycles can be devastating to creatures with a long development phase. Since most predators have a two-to-ten-year population cycle, the twelve-year cicadas would be a feast for any predator with a two-, three-, four-, or six-year cycle. By this reasoning, any cicada with a development span that is easily divisible by the smaller numbers of a predator’s population cycle is vulnerable.
Read it all HERE.
Visit the charming little Village of F*cking in Austria
I‘ve heard Fucking is fabulous in the Spring.
Too old for schoolyard humor? Never!
It has a population of just 104 and lies 4 kilometres from the German border in west Austria. And it’s name really is Fucking.
The unfortunately-named village (pronounced fooking) is a peaceful place. The only crime ever reported here was for the theft of the town’s infamous road signs. Commonly stolen by tourists as souvenirs, Fucking’s road sign thefts became such a menace to the village that in 2004, a vote was held on changing the village’s name.
Read more HERE.
Death in Singapore
On June 24 last year, the body of a young US electronics engineer, Shane Todd, was found hanging in his Singapore apartment. Police said it was suicide, but the Todd family believe he was murdered. Shane had feared that a project he was working on was compromising US national security. His parents want to know if that project sent him to his grave
Shane Todd on a dragon boat in Singapore during an outing with friends and colleagues in 2011. This is one of a number of images featured on Shane’s Facebook page. The photographs of Shane Todd have been provided by the Todd family
Mary and Rick Todd were anxious about entering the apartment where their oldest son had lived and died. Late last June the couple had flown from Montana to Denver to Los Angeles to a colonial-era house in the Chinatown district of Singapore to try to make sense of an unthinkable loss: Shane Todd, a young engineer who had just wrapped up an 18-month stint with a government research institute known as IME, was dead – an apparent suicide, according to the Singapore police. Mrs Todd felt her heart pounding as she climbed the narrow staircase to his apartment and thought about what the police had told her two days earlier.
Shane had died a week before he was to return to the US. The police said he had drilled holes into his bathroom wall, bolted in a pulley, then slipped a black strap through the pulley and wrapped it around the toilet several times. He then tethered the strap to his neck and jumped from a chair. Shane, 6ft 1in and nearly 200lb, hanged himself from the bathroom door, the autopsy report said.
Finish reading HERE.