Dr. Marvin Seife, former director of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration's generic drug division, was fined $25,000 today and sentenced to five months in federal prison and five months on home detention on two perjury convictions.
Judge John R. Hargrove, in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, said he would recommend work-release incarceration for Seife, 66, of San Antonio, Texas, for the first five months of the sentence.
The judge also ordered Seife, who was known as "the father of the generic drug industry," to serve two years of supervised release, to start during his home detention.
"The important thing is, people in government can't become so important that you can run the government any way you want," Hargrove told the defendant. "You thought you had become immune."
U.S. Attorney Breckinridge L. Willcox said the judge's work-release recommendation is "illegal," and indicated the government would appeal the sentence if the Bureau of Prisons does not send Seife to a conventional prison for the first five months of his term.
Willcox said in court that Seife "betrayed his position of trust" and "set the moral tone for unprecedented scandals in the FDA" by lying to FDA investigators, under oath in an interview and an affidavit, about his acceptance of a $30 lunch in 1987 from two officials of the industry his agency regulated.
During Seife's trial last October, Willcox and a co-prosecutor played up the defendant's perjury and downplayed the lunch aspect, while the defense ridiculed the lunch as the basis for the felony charges.
Willcox said today, requesting Seife's imprisonment as a deterrent, "The system simply can't function if every senior service executive establishes his own code of conduct."
Seife, who directed the division for 18 years before he retired in 1989, is the highest-ranking FDA official to be convicted in a continuing 2 1/2 -year investigation that so far has resulted in 15 convictions of former FDA officials, generic drug companies and company executives on corruption charges.
Defense attorney Hamilton P. Fox 3rd requested a reduced sentence and home detention for Seife because of his age and ill health. He said Seife's wife also is ailing, and depends on her husband to shop for her and tend to her medications.
Fox said Willcox's "moral tone" remarks were "rhetoric completely devoid of any empirical proof" and said that Seife "does not believe, and I don't believe that he intentionally lied when he gave the affidavit."
Hargrove, who argued with Fox for an hour over evidence and sentencing guidelines in the case, said Seife's perjury "is one of the more serious crimes" in the generic drug probe so far.