orlando_florida_fedex_936771_hFedEx, one of the country’s largest courier service providers, is facing serious drug-trafficking charges after a federal grand jury indicted the company, saying it knowingly shipped prescription drugs without prescription for illegal online pharmacies.

According to the indictment, FedEx knew it was shipping prescription drugs for illegal pharmacies for over 10 years. The California-based courier company even went so far as to set up special “credit policies” in an effort to protect the online pharmacies it conducted business with.  Authorities accuse FedEx of setting up these policies to make their clients — illegal online pharmacies — feel more secure and comfortable spending money with them.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been warning FedEx to change its business practices for more than a decade — warnings which the DEA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and members of Congress say were largely ignored.

More specifically, the indictment claims FedEx earned over $820 million in revenue by shipping potentially dangerous and often addictive prescription drugs for illegal online pharmacies. If the courier company is found guilty, it could be subject to a fine in excess of $1.6 billion.

This indictment comes just a year after similar charges were placed against UPS. Ultimately, UPS settled with a $40 million fine and agreed to change its business practices to stop prescription drugs from flowing through its system.

FedEx claims they are doing nothing wrong, citing that each time a list of illegal pharmacies is sent from the DEA, they immediately turn off shipping for those respective companies.

“We have repeatedly requested that the government provide us a list of online pharmacies engaging in illegal activity,” said FedEx senior vice president for marketing and communications Patrick Fitzgerald. “Whenever DEA provides us a list of pharmacies engaging in illegal activity, we will turn off shipping for those companies immediately. So far the government has declined to provide such a list.

FedEx also points out the ramifications of this case. Fitzgerald noted that FedEx is a “transportation company” and not “law enforcement.” Is it the courier’s legal responsibility to ensure each and every package is free of illegal material? This is a question that remains up for debate, but the outcome of this case could spur changes throughout the entire shipping/courier industry.

FedEx executives have been summoned to appear in front of a federal court in San Francisco on July 29.

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