Newberg, Oregon Resident Sentenced to Year in Federal Prison for Selling Weight-Loss Product with Unapproved Additive that Likely Killed Chicago Man

CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has sentenced a man to a year in prison for manufacturing and selling a purported weight-loss product containing the unapproved additive 2,4-Dinitrophenol, known as DNP.

2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP) is reported to cause rapid loss of weight, but unfortunately is associated with an unacceptably high rate of significant adverse effects. DNP is sold* mostly over the internet under a number of different names as a weight loss/slimming aid. It causes uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation; the classic symptom complex associated with toxicity of phenol-based products such as DNP is a combination of hyperthermia, tachycardia (rapid heart rate), diaphoresis (sweating) and tachypnoea (rapid respiration), eventually leading to death.

[*Note: DNP is sold illegally]

— Grundlingh J, Dargan PI, El-Zanfaly M, Wood DM. 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP): a weight loss agent with significant acute toxicity and risk of death. J Med Toxicol. 2011 Sep;7(3):205-12.

A Chicago man received a shipment of weight loss pills that’s a legal pesticide, but not a legal weight loss. He died less than two weeks after receiving the shipment. According Portland Mercury, the man’s parents investigated the circumstances surround their son’s death, and filled out an online complaint form with the Illinois Attorney General’s office. The AG forwarded to federal authorities, and an FDA special agent went to work on the case. The investigation involved some Internet forensics to find the secret source of the pills, a stakeout of the suspect’s residence, and a stakeout of the post office he use to ship the product.




Jonathan E. McGraw, 33, of Newberg, Oregon, obtained DNP from sources in China and used it as the primary ingredient in capsules that he manufactured in a makeshift lab in his garage and marketed online as a weight-loss product. McGraw sold the capsules to customers throughout the United States via his website – ScorpionDNP.com – and through postings on other sites, including reddit.com. In an effort to deceive regulatory and law enforcement agencies, McGraw falsely labeled his product as pesticide. A federal agent posing as a customer even received instructions on how to apply the pesticide on indoor plants with a warning that the product is not for human consumption. An email sent to the federal agent provided instructions on how to properly dose the weight loss pills.

DNP is an organic compound that has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or any other regulatory agency for human consumption in the U.S. McGraw acknowledged in a plea agreement that he knew that the use of DNP by his customers created a risk of death or serious bodily injury.

McGraw pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal charge of introducing a new drug into interstate commerce without approval. U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee on Friday sentenced McGraw to a year and a day in federal prison.




The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Lynda M. Burdelik, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations.

“Defendant engaged in a course of conduct over a prolonged period of time that exposed hundreds of individuals to a significant risk of harm or death,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick D. Young argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “Defendant was willing to subject hundreds of people to a risk of death in order to make money for himself.”

See the Portland MERCURY article (February 7, 2018) by Doug Brown for more details on the methods of the forensics to find the suspect, and the investigation to prove that Jonathan E. McGraw was actually selling and delivering the unapproved DNP.

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