Online marketplace eBay will pay $59 million in a settlement over US government allegations that equipment that can be used to manufacture illegal drugs was sold on its website, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
eBay has also agreed to step up efforts to comply with federal regulations on the sale of pill presses and encapsulating machines, which can be used to produce counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl, the DOJ said in a statement.
The Justice Department had alleged that eBay violated the Controlled Substances Act, which requires sellers to verify the identities of buyers, engage in strict recordkeeping and report to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Thousands of the machines, “including high-capacity pill presses capable of producing thousands of pills per hour,” were sold via eBay without proper compliance, the DOJ said.
The DOJ said its inquiry also found that “hundreds of eBay’s pill press buyers also purchased counterfeit molds, stamps, or dies, allowing them to produce pills that mimicked the products of legitimate pharmaceutical companies.”
Many of those same buyers were “successfully prosecuted in connection with trafficking illegal counterfeit pills,” it added.
“Fentanyl — pressed into fake pills that look like real prescription medications — is killing Americans. Drug traffickers buy the tools to make fake pills, like pill presses, online,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in the statement.
“eBay and other e-commerce platforms must do their part to protect the public. And when they do not, DEA will hold them accountable.”
Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, accounts for the majority of the roughly 100,000 overdose deaths each year in the United States. In 2022, authorities attributed 73,000 such deaths to the use of fentanyl.
The fentanyl trade has roiled relations between the United States and China, with Washington accusing China-based entities and individuals of supplying products used to make fentanyl to US-based drug traffickers and Mexican cartels.