In April 2015, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (UCS) paid a "pharmaceutical company" located in India $26,700 for 1,000 vials, each containing 1 gram of the execution drug sodium thiopental. It never received the vials.
On January 6, 2016, UCS Director Scott Frakes wrote Chris Harris of Harris Pharma a letter demanding a refund because the vials had not been delivered. Harris refused, blaming the delay on the UCS first insisting they use a shipper who refused to ship them, then the UCS needing to renew their import license. Harris said the vials were packed and awaiting shipment as soon as the UCS confirmed renewal of the import license.
Did the UCS run afoul of an execution drug scam? A BuzzFeed investigation revealed the facility Harris registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be a small office space without the capability of manufacturing drugs. The facility he registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency was actually an old apartment building he formerly resided in before he moved out owing the landlord several months' rent.
Harris previously sold the drug to other states, assuring them that the legal issues have been resolved. But the FDA maintains that any attempt at importing the drugs would be illegal. Indeed, in 2016, the FDA seized two shipments of the drug from Harris intended to be used for executions in Texas and Arizona. Those states are putting up a legal battle to get the shipments released. Nebraska never got that far along in the process.
So, were Arizona, Nebraska and Texas victims of an execution drug fraud or were they simply willing to violate the law in order to execute people for violating the law?
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