Federal Criminal Charges Filed For Illegal Sales of Cosmetic Contact Lenses

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Some contact lenses purchased undercover in Los Angeles area were found to be contaminated.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against the owners and operators of 10 businesses in the Los Angeles area for illegally selling cosmetic contact lenses without prescriptions.

“Operation Fright Night” targeted retail stores that sold cosmetic and decorative contact lenses without prescriptions.  Undercover investigators purchased the lenses, some of which were found to be contaminated with pathogens that can cause eye injury, blindness, and loss of the eye.

The charges were filed October 23, 2015, as a result of a joint investigation conducted by Operation Safe Medicine within the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Division of Investigation Health Quality Investigation Unit, along with the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Import Operations Branch of the Los Angeles District Office, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the California Department of Public Health.

All of the charges filed in Operation Fright Night are misdemeanor offenses that carry a statutory maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and fines of up to $100,000 for an individual and up to $200,000 for a corporation.

Contact lenses are medical devices and are subject to FDA regulations that require prescriptions from medical professionals.  Contact lenses that fit the eye poorly can cause scratches to the cornea, corneal infection, conjunctivitis, decreased vision and blindness.  Under California law, retailers must be licensed as a physician or surgeon, optometrist, registered dispensing optician or pharmacist.  Each of those licenses is issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Consumers can verify licenses here.

Read more about this case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release.