On February 3, Houston-based U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner threw the book at convicted smuggler Delano R. Martin. Although the federal sentencing guidelines called for somewhere between 12 and 18 months, Hittner went above and beyond in punishing the criminal.
"A sentence of 24 months should have a deterrent effect on the defendant and others unscrupulous enough to circumvent regulations intended to protect society, all for the sake of profit," declared the judge, who also tacked on a $10,000 fine. Martin owes the Internal Revenue Service an additional $38,000 for income tax evasion.
Martin's crime? Smuggling French-manufactured silicone-gel breast implants into the United States. Trade in silicone breast implants has been illegal since 1992, when the Food and Drug Administration, in a controversial decision, declared the medical devices a health hazard. (See "A Confederacy of Boobs," October 1995.) According to the government, Martin illegally imported 47 implants in 1995 and has distributed close to 600 implants to doctors throughout the country.
Customs officials told the Houston Chronicle that the implants have become "a major commodity" on the black market, fetching more than $1,800 a pair.