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Claremont woman accused of selling 'purple drank' in Texas

November 4, 2011 |  7:26 pm

A Claremont woman who bought three pharmacies in Southern California so she could allegedly obtain more than 97,000 pints of a potent cough syrup and sell it as a street drug in Texas has been indicted on federal money-laundering charges, authorities said Friday.

Lucita Uy, 70; her son Lemuel Libunao, 42, also of Claremont; and their accused accomplices in Texas allegedly banked almost $10 million from distributing the cough syrup promethazine with codeine in the streets of Houston, authorities said.

Promethazine, a central nervous system depressant, is known as "sizzurp," "purple drank" or "Lean" -- because abusers often can't stand up straight. It can be fatal when combined with alcohol.

A one-pint bottle of promethazine costs $9 wholesale, but it can bring as much as $600 in Houston, authorities said. 

Between 2004 and 2006, Uy bought Plaza Pharmacy, renamed Save Rite, in Santa Ana; Value Plus Pharmacy in Long Beach; and Blue Rose Pharmacy in Long Beach so she could purchase $1.1 million of the syrup from drug wholesalers to sell to abusers, according to a federal indictment.

The drugs were driven to Texas or delivered by parcel post. Uy and her crew deposited $6.9 million in cash and $2.7 million in money orders in various bank accounts, the indictment said.

Authorities are also seeking forfeiture of what they allege to be proceeds from the illicit drug sales, including seven properties in Monrovia, Claremont and Houston; $64,500 in cash; a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550; a 2007 Toyota Tundra and 11 watches, including a diamond-encrusted Rolex.

Uy and her son were arrested Oct. 6 and pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to structure transactions to evade federal reporting requirements. U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II scheduled a trial for Nov. 29.

If convicted, Uy and Libunao each face a maximum term of 25 years in federal prison.

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