WINNIPEG — It’s a staggering tale that took a young man from a high-flying Internet entrepreneur in Minnedosa to a jail cell in Miami in a decade.
The epic rise of 38-year-old Andrew Strempler from online pharmacy magnate has crashed after his arrest on Wednesday at the Miami International Airport, as he made his way to Canada from South America.
Strempler — once profiled by the New York Times as a “rich man” who went out of his way not to disguise his wealth — had attracted notice as one of Manitoba’s most flamboyant young businessmen as he built an online pharmacy business, RxNorth.com, from a century-old building in downtown Minnedosa.
That success meant the purchase of a Wellington Crescent mansion that once belonged to Leonard Asper and a collection of flashy cars that included two Dodge Vipers and a yellow Lamborghini.
Strempler was charged Wednesday with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, as well as two counts of mail fraud.
As of Friday, he was at a federal detention centre in Miami.
Prisoners in the jail must wake up at 6 a.m. on weekdays and submit to cell inspections.
Jay Boschman, a Brandon-based pharmacist who almost went into business with Strempler, said he was “not surprised at all” to hear about what happened.
The pair met in the 1990s at a pharmacy in Rossburn. Strempler struck Boschman as a “sharp person,” and the pair shared Christian beliefs as Strempler developed his business.
“He was young, and he was energetic and I thought he was a sharp, sharp pharmacist,” said Boschman.
But the two drifted apart and haven’t spoken in more than a decade.
“As he became richer and richer, he seemed to disregard maybe some of the laws of the land,” Boschman said.
Court documents filed in Miami say authorities are seeking the forfeiture of US$95 million it’s alleged Strempler received through crime.
The charges against Strempler date from a period from January 2005 to June 2006.
Documents filed in a U.S. District Court in Florida allege Strempler — as founder and owner of Mediplan Health Consulting, which also operated under the name RxNorth.com — had received a letter in 2001 saying his drug sales south of the border would be illegal if the products weren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The Free Press chronicled some of the further hurdles the business faced, after Strempler bought out his partners and sold it in 2006, the same year the FDA warned that drugs purchased from the firm were unsafe.
By 2009, Strempler had struck his name from a provincial pharmacy registry and had to pay $7,500 to stay charges against him at a disciplinary hearing at the Manitoba Pharmaceutical Association.
The court documents say Strempler and others used a facility named Personal Touch in Freeport, Bahamas, “to dispense prescription drugs purchased from RxNorth,” from January 2005 to June 2006.
“Andrew J. Strempler and others caused prescription orders made through RxNorth to be filled at the facility in the Bahamas, with labels on the vials and drug cartons stating they had been filled by RxNorth in Canada,” said court documents.
Strempler was licensed as a pharmacist in Manitoba, said the documents, and Mediplan was also based in the province.
RCMP D Division spokesman Cpl. Miles Hiebert said there were no outstanding warrants for Strempler’s arrest in Canada and he is not facing criminal charges.
He couldn’t confirm or deny if Strempler was under investigation in Manitoba by the Mounties.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 16, 2012