Pittsburgh Man Pleads Guilty to Holding Counterfeit Drugs and Possessing Equipment Used to Make Fake Substances

By Department of Justice

Originally posted on

PITTSBURGH – A resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of holding counterfeit drugs for sale and possession of equipment for manufacturing counterfeit substances, United States Attorney Cindy K. Chung announced today.

Joshua Regatuso, age 26, of the City’s Brighton Heights section, pleaded guilty to two counts before United States District Judge Robert J. Colville.

In connection with the guilty plea, the Court was advised that the investigation, which began in early 2021, revealed that Regatuso used another person to receive binding powder and metal die stamps for use in a pill press. Regatuso appeared to have been using similar items to manufacture counterfeit alprazolam pills using etizolam, a medication not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for medical use in the United States. On May 6, 2021, following the execution of a search warrant, agents seized two pill presses; roughly 250 grams of etizolam powder; counterfeit alprazolam tablets containing etilozam; and two bags of binding powder. A second search warrant yielded several thousand counterfeit alprazolam tablets and a baggie of etizolam powder. The tablets had the same markings as have been used by a company that the FDA has authorized to distribute a 2mg pill containing alprazolam.

“Fake prescription medications present a clear danger to every purchaser,” said U.S Attorney Chung. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute individuals who produce and sell counterfeit pills. Counterfeit pills are not only illegal, but often dangerous and potentially lethal.”

“The fake pills that Regatuso was manufacturing and distributing represent the most important enforcement priority for the DEA,” said Thomas Hodnett, Special Agent in Charge of the
Drug Enforcement Administration’s Philadelphia Field Division. “While a significant quantity of the fake pills that law enforcement seizes are manufactured in other countries, we continue to see locally manufactured fake pills that are produced in clandestine laboratories such as the one operated by Regatuso. The DEA would like to emphasize the only safe medications are ones that come from licensed and accredited medical professionals. The DEA warns that pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are illegal and may contain a potentially lethal dose of illicit fentanyl.”

Judge Colville scheduled sentencing for Dec. 8, 2022, at 11 a.m. The law provides for a total sentence of not more than 10 years in prison, a fine of not more than $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Pending sentencing, the court continued the defendant on bond.

Assistant United States Attorney Brian W. Castello is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Joshua Regatuso.