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Strengthening and Focusing Enforcement to Deter Organized Stealing and Enhance Safety Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

H.R. 4223 is intended to address the problem of large-scale medical product theft. I think we will all agree that this crime poses substantial risks to the public.

For instance, in North Carolina, in 2009, over 120,000 vials of insulin were stolen and subsequently reintroduced back into the supply chain to be used by unsuspecting patients.

Patients should be able to rely on their medications to be safe, effective, and unadulterated, and we certainly need to treat it as a significant crime when criminals steal shipments of drugs. Large-scale medical product theft is a serious problem that merits a serious solution.

I commend my colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee for making important changes to this bill. The manager's amendment adopted at markup clarified that the mens rea applies only to conduct in which the perpetrator knows that the product involved is a medical product that is stolen, expired, or not yet released to the public.

I also believe that the correct reading of this bill, consistent with the general presumption that the mens rea element in a statute applies to all other nonjurisdictional elements, is that a defendant would have to know that the product is a pre-retail medical product in order to be convicted.

While I note these important issues, I want to raise a note of concern about the approach of increasing penalties as a way of addressing crime. Stealing cargo from a warehouse is already illegal, of course. The penalty is a fine and up to 10 years in prison.

H.R. 4223 creates a new crime for theft of preretail medical products and a new code section, 18 U.S.C. Section 670. Section 670 would increase the penalties to up to 30 years in prison in some cases if the stolen goods are preretail medical products.

However, I'm heartened that this bill does not include mandatory minimum sentences, and there will be an intelligent, deliberative process to set sentencing guidelines by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

As the House moves to adopt this bill today, I want to emphasize that it is also important that we do what we know works best to deter crime, and that is to increase the likelihood that perpetrators will be caught and convicted.

We heard from a witness at the hearing on this bill that increased investigation and enforcement would have a greater deterrent effect than increased penalties. I agree, and this bill was amended at markup to include a provision directing the Attorney General to give increased priority to efforts to investigate and prosecute preretail medical theft offenses.

Finally, we want to encourage the industry to exhaust all reasonable means of preventing these thefts from their properties and other facilities along the transit route.

The April 2011 edition of Fortune Magazine included an article entitled, ``Drug Theft Goes Big.'' The article reports that the thieves who committed the largest prescription drug theft in history did so by cutting through the tar roof of Eli Lilly's Connecticut warehouse and sliding down ropes. Security was so lax that the thieves were able to pull their own tractor-trailer up to the loading dock and spend a couple of hours loading the stolen goods.

In a similar event several months ago, thieves broke into a GlaxoSmithKline warehouse by coming through the roof. While none of this in any way shields or excuses the perpetrators of these crimes, clearly, these examples point to the need for more security.

Government and industry should work together at all points along the factory-to-retail chain to prevent and detect such thefts. I'm aware that industry and government regulatory authorities are working toward these ends, and I would hope that work will continue so that we will have a comprehensive effort to address this type of crime.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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