eBay will pay $59 million to settle DOJ suit over pill press machine sales

The company has also agreed to keep a closer eye on counterfeit molds, stamps and dies.


Online commerce platform eBay will pay $59 million to settle allegations from the Justice Department that it assisted in the sale of pill press machines, which are used to manufacture both legitimate and counterfeit prescription medications. The platform sold thousands of these presses, along with other products to create pills, such as molds, stamps, dies and encapsulating machines. For the uninitiated, encapsulating machines are used to fill capsules with medication.

Pill press machines are used by legitimate pharmaceutical companies to manufacture medication, but they are also a required tool for making counterfeit pills. Criminals use these machines to make fake medications that look like actual prescription pills, typically for sale on the street or via the dark web. When combined with molds, stamps and dies, these fake pills will look exactly like the real McCoy, down to the logos and letters on each side. Additionally, these presses can whip up thousands of pills per hour.

The issue here is that companies that facilitate the sale of pill presses and related equipment are required to verify the buyers’ identities and send records along to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to ensure the machines can be traced if used illegally. It looks like eBay shirked its duties here, which is a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

“Through its website, eBay made it easy for individuals across the country to obtain the type of dangerous machines that are often used to make counterfeit pills," US Attorney Nikolas Kerest told ABC News.

eBay’s failure to follow “basic reporting and record keeping requirements” allowed people to "set up pill factories in their homes and to do so without detection,” added US Attorney Henry Leventis.

Beyond the hefty payout, eBay has agreed to comply with regulations moving forward, so information regarding each pill press machine sold, along with accessories, will be sent to the DEA for perusal. Additionally, many of the people who bought the machines on eBay have been charged in illegal counterfeit pills trafficking cases, according to the DOJ.

This is a big deal, because these counterfeit pills are often filled with all kinds of junk, including fentanyl. The synthetic opioid is largely responsible for the deadliest overdose crisis in US history, with nearly 74,000 people dying from fentanyl overdoses in 2022 alone. This drug accounts for more than two-thirds of overdose deaths in the US. You won’t fall into a coma by touching it, no matter what cops say, but you should still stay far, far away from the stuff.

As for eBay, this isn’t the first time the company had to pony up money to the DOJ. It recently had to pay $3 million to settle a truly bizarre cyberstalking case involving the shipment of live animals. The DOJ is also suing eBay for allowing the sale of aftermarket “defeat devices,” which bypass vehicle emission controls.