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Questions remain after DOJ drops drug case against FedEx

The Department of Justice has made headlines over the last few years for its dogged -- and perhaps somewhat unusual -- pursuit of Tennessee-based FedEx.

Specifically, federal prosecutors indicted the shipping giant on a host of criminal charges, including conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances back in 2014, investing considerable time and money into preparing for trial, which began last Monday.

The federal government alleged that back in the early 2000s, FedEx started conspiring with two online pharmacies to send what it knew to be illegal drugs -- sedatives, sleep aids, painkillers, etc. -- to customers who had not undergone any sort of examination by a physician. These prescription drugs were then purportedly sold by dealers or consumed by those with addiction problems.

Interestingly, the DOJ pursued similar criminal charges against FedEx's primary competitor UPS, reaching a $40 million settlement with the Georgia-based shipper back in 2013.

For its part, FedEx argued that it only ever shipped drugs that it believed to be legal from licensed online prescription providers and had even assisted federal law enforcement agencies with cracking down on some of the offending pharmacies.

It was against this highly contentious and relatively well-developed backdrop that federal prosecutors moved to dismiss all of the charges against FedEx last week, a shocking move that came just days into the start of the bench trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The presiding federal judge granted the request last Friday, but provided little explanation in his accompanying two-page order as to why the case was being dropped. Similarly, the U.S. Attorney's Office was offering no comment.

Experts are theorizing, however, that the decision to abandon the case could have stemmed from the pending testimony of two DEA officials, both of whom planned to testify about how they had spoken with FedEx officials over the years, yet never advised them to stop providing services for any online pharmacy.

The sudden decision to drop the case has many questioning what exactly went wrong.

"It's just very disturbing that this case could go on for as long as it did and then get dropped days into the trial," said one law professor and former federal prosecutor.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you are under investigation or have been charged with any federal drug crime, it's imperative to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.      

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Darryl A. Goldberg
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