DOJ: Gresham man imported chloroquine from China for planned reselling as COVID-19 treatment

Evidence photos from court documents. (KPTV)

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - A Gresham man has been sentenced to probation after investigators said he imported a drug from China with the intent to resell it as a COVID-19 treatment.

Matthew Owens, 42, pleaded guilty Friday to the charge of introduction into interstate commerce an adulterated or misbranded drug.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon first released details of the case in May.

A package addressed to Owens’ apartment in Gresham was intercepted by Homeland Security Investigations in Tennessee on April 13. The package originated in Xiaoshan, China and contained a white powder declared as ammonium polyphosphate, but was later determined to be chloroquine, according to court documents.

Chloroquine, according to the Department of Justice, is the active pharmaceutical ingredient in prescription drugs used to treat malaria.

The invoice described it as a “sample” with “no commercial value,” which investigators said are statements used to improperly import items while attempting to avoid detection.

Investigators said online transcripts showed Owens discussing his purchase, receipt and plan to offer chloroquine for sale as a COVID-19 treatment.

Facebook Messenger transcriptions showed Owens stating that he can “cure a lot of sick people” and he could have prevented deaths if he was a doctor and people had come to him on day one of “the bug,” according to court documents.

Investigators said there were no records to show that Owens was a physician, pharmacist or registered nurse.

After pleading guilty Friday, Owens was sentenced to two years of formal probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

The Oregon Poison Center in March warned against any so-called remedies for COVID-19 making the rounds of social media, including “chloroquine obtained through non-medical sources.”

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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