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Authorities Going After ‘Smurfing’ At Drugstores

3.26.15 – Kandice Lawson,  The Muskogee Phoenix

Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson said methamphetamine manufacturing slowed when pharmacies put one of its main ingredients behind the counter.

“It slowed the problem down, but as with everything, the criminals figure a way around it,” Pearson said. “It doesn’t matter how hard we make it, they find another way around it.”

The latest method of obtaining pseudoephedrine is called “smurfing,” and District Attorney Orvil Loge continues efforts to raise awareness about the practice.

Loge held a press conference Wednesday where he discussed the campaign geared toward increasing awareness about smurfing, which is the criminal practice of purchasing cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine to knowingly or unknowingly sell them to methamphetamine cooks.

“When someone is looking for people to go buy their pseudoephedrine products to make methamphetamine, they need to be aware that that’s a crime,” Loge said. “Both the purchase or resale of and making of meth. Bringing awareness to the community is vital to trying to stop meth cooks and abusers.”

The anti-smurfing campaign is aimed at informing consumers through signs and handouts at pharmacy cash registers that smurfing is a serious criminal offense that can lead to jail time and affect innocent lives.

The conference included Chris Schiller, the vice president of operations of Economy Pharmacy. Schiller said pharmacies almost have to police who comes in and out to purchase medications.

“We have to try to determine if it’s a legitimate patient wanting it for a legitimate reason.” Schiller said. “I don’t want a regular patient who comes in who has a cold to be out of luck. We stock certain medications that aren’t easily converted to meth, and we don’t stock a whole lot and we only sell to our current prescription patients.”

Pseudoephedrine is the No. 1 ingredient in meth. Oklahoma is in the forefront tackling the issue by being the first state to enforce any type of rules on the sale of pseudoephedrine.

The anti-smurfing campaign was launched in 2014. Loge wants to continue the campaign in Muskogee and says he has a plan to crack down on the issue.

Read more here.