The illegal prescription drug industry relies on the involvement of multiple groups and people. The industry would be limited in reaching its customers if transportation companies like FedEx and UPS did not exist. Several years ago the Drug Enforcement Agency began investigating the role of FedEx and UPS in delivering prescription drugs ordered online.
These investigations led to the Justice Department alerting FedEx and UPS recently that they could soon face criminal charges for delivering illegal prescription drugs. UPS is reportedly cooperating with the Justice Department, but FedEx will fight the allegations.
A representative from FedEx explains that the Justice Department has pointed to specific deliveries made by FedEx from online pharmacies. The FedEx representative claims that these packages "involved legal drugs with a valid prescription from online pharmacies licensed by the DEA."
So, FedEx is being charged for making deliveries - the company's primary function. This situation brings up the question of responsibility in terms of transporting goods. As the online pharmacies were licensed by the DEA, FedEx likely had no way of knowing that the packages contained drugs that were not entirely legal.
This case involves some of the largest shipping companies in the nation. However, the concept behind the charges against UPS and FedEx may occur on a smaller scale as well.
For instance, a person may be hired to deliver packages containing illegal drugs to another person. The delivery person may not know what the boxes contain. Or, the sender could have lied about the contents of the boxes. If the delivery person is stopped and searched while delivering the boxes, police could find the drugs charge him or her with drug possession. Can a middleman be charged for a crime when he was simply doing his job? This type of situation is complicated, so seeking a legal professional's guidance would be important.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Pain-pill probe targets FedEx, UPS," Alicia Mundy and Thomas Catan, Nov. 15, 2012