California Man Gets 2 Years for Smuggling ‘Gas Station Heroin’ From China

California Man Gets 2 Years for Smuggling ‘Gas Station Heroin’ From China
The tianeptine was packaged in 5-, 10-, and 20-gram quantities at prices ranging from $55 to $175. (U.S. Attorney's Office)
Micaela Ricaforte

A California man who was making $250,000 a month selling an imported, unapproved drug as a mood-enhancement supplement was sentenced in federal court last week to two years in prison and a hefty payback.

According to a US Attorney’s Office press release, Ryan M. Stabile, 37, of Pasadena, California, pleaded guilty in September 2023 to conspiring to smuggle tianeptine into the United States from China. The highly addictive drug, also known as “gas station heroin,” is often used as an antidepressant in other countries, according to the National Library of Medicine, and is currently not approved for any use in the US.

On Feb. 15, a U.S. District Court judge in Boston sentenced Mr. Stabile to two years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a forfeiture of $1,833,922.

He had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and two counts of introduction of misbranded drugs with intent to defraud and mislead online customers in Massachusetts.

Fernando McMillan, a special agent with the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigation, said in the press release that misbranded and unapproved drugs from overseas can pose serious health risks.

“All smuggled drugs carry additional risks of unknown ingredients and unknown manufacturing conditions,” Mr. McMillan said. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who attempt to traffic in these dangerous, misbranded, and unapproved drug products.”

Mr. Stabile sold the tianeptine online through his company, Supplements for Work. He labeled the tianeptine as a mood enhancer, claiming that he was selling it for research purposes only, though he sold it to individuals for personal use, according to officials.

Mr. Stabile smuggled 20-30 pounds of tianeptine per month from a Chinese supplier and sold it on his websites in five-gram, 10-gram, and 20-gram quantities at prices ranging from $55 to $175.

Officials estimate he made at least $2.2 million in illegal tianeptine sales, with an average of $250,000 per month.

“Mr. Stabile knew how addicting and dangerous tianeptine was and yet it did not stop him from smuggling the illegal drug into the United States and selling it under false pretenses,” said acting US Attorney Joshua S. Levy in the press release. “He continued to profit off the addiction of others even after he was indicted.”