PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that William Merlino, 85, of Mays Landing, NJ, was convicted at trial of selling misbranded drugs online, arising from his scheme to sell a toxic industrial chemical as a weight-loss drug which he manufactured in a lab in his home.In December 2019, the defendant was charged with one count of introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce in connection with operating a business through which he packaged and sold Dinitriophenol (DNP) for human consumption from at least November 2017 until March 2019. In the 1930s, before the law required drugs to be proven safe before they were marketed, DNP was used as a weight-loss drug despite significant negative side effects, including dehydration, cataracts, liver damage, and death. The chemical has never been approved for human consumption by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but has a variety of industrial/commercial uses, such as herbicides, dyes, and wood preservatives. Using Twitter to advertise, eBay to sell, and email to communicate with clients, Merlino earned approximately $54,000 from clients in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. through the sale of this drug. During trial, a witness from the shipping service the defendant used to ship the drug to customers testified that they referred to Merlino among their colleagues as ‘the yellow man,’ due to the fact that every time he would bring in a package to ship, he would have yellow dust from the chemical on his skin, nails and clothes.After a year-long investigation by the FDA, investigators served a search warrant at the defendant’s residence, where they found bulk DNP, packaging and encapsulating materials, and a pill press. Subsequently, while awaiting trial on this charge, Merlino faked a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in order to attempt to avoid trial; the jury heard evidence that the defendant altered a doctor’s letter and his medical records. As a result, the defendant is now separately facing obstruction of justice charges related to these fraudulent submissions to the court.
DNP! I remember using it as a derivativization reagent in sophomore organic chemistry, and being told about the weight-loss potential. Who knew that people were still using it!?!?