Move Over Mexican Drug Cartels – Feds say Google is the new Illicit (pharma) Drug Pusher

Before you get worried that Larry Page is prosecuted for large-scale drug trafficking, leading to a Google shutdown—you can rest at ease — they bought their way out of criminal charges — to the tune of $500,000,000 (and yes, I did write out the 0’s for effect).

The nation-wide prescription drug ring sting setup by US authorities built websites designed to offer illicit pharmaceutical products, and then purchased ads on Google — implicating the company, and several of its high-level executives who purportedly knew about the drug fraud. The Mexican-pharmaceutical-product selling websites were openly accepted by Google into their online advertising platform.

The US Attorney’s office reported that senior Google execs, including Larry Page, “knew about the illicit conduct” but didn’t pull the ads—thereby implicating them in nation-wide criminal drug activity.

In 2009 the feds approached Google about their participation in the sale of illegal pharmaceuticals, and after two long years of negotiation Google finally bought their way out of criminal charges with a $500-million settlement. You may have read this in 2011 when it originally broke, but further details about it were released recently, including the use of David Whitaker — a 6-year term convicted felon — in order to nail Google.

Whitaker made a deal with the feds for a reduced sentence, agreeing to be recruited into the sting operation where he set up websites designed to skirt around Google’s illicit-pharmaceutical-blocking policies. Whitaker was able, under the expert tutelage of Google sales reps, to skirt company policies and advertise his illicit-pharmaceutical websites, simply by tweaking the sites.

“It was very obvious to Google that my website was not a licensed pharmacy,” Whitaker said in an after-the-fact interview. “Understanding this, Google provided me with a very generous credit line and allowed me to set my target advertising directly to American consumers.”

Whitaker’s series of sting sites were set up with super-obvious domain names like SportsDrugs .net and NotGrowingOldEasy .com — all of which offered drugs like HGH, steroids, RU-486, oxycodone and hydrocodone to American customers without the necessary prescription.

This isn’t the first time Google has been implicated in selling ads to less-than-legit websites, they have prior offenses that include profiting from ads space sold to copyright-infringing websites. Years ago however, Google did sever ties with one illegitimate copyright offender though, the recently-indited copyright-infringing Megaupload.com — whose owners, by contrast, were not offered the opportunity of buying their freedom. This is an interesting fact given that Google’s settlement was $500 million, while Megaupload earned less than half that during their entire time selling copyright-infringing subscriptions. You have to wonder what Google did to earn such brownie points with the federal attorney’s office.