Police: smurfing a problem in Perry Co.

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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Gov. Steve Beshear joined dozens in Lexington on Tuesday to announce a new campaign to fight the war on drugs.

Law enforcement said "smurfing" can lead to jail time but many do not know they are committing a crime when they do it. Police and pharmacists talked about the issue in Perry County.

Pharmacists say they know what to look for. Federal law has moved all PSE-containing medicines behind a sales counter.

“We watch for any types of suspicious behavior from the customer,” said Cindi Williams of Complete Care Pharmacy in Hazard.
“Like if four or five people come in a car and come in the store in different times and try to act like they are not together – that’s a red flag.”

Williams said pharmacists in her workplace used Meth Check to follow legislation which attempts to prevent pseudoephedrine to end up in the wrong hands.

Police said "smurfing" has become a trend in Perry County.

“Hazard is kind of like a hub in the mountains,” said Major James East of the Hazard Police Department.
“People from Clay County, Breathitt County, Leslie County, Letcher County are coming in to make those purchases on a pretty frequent basis.”

New laws state only 9 grams per 30 days of pseudoephedrine can be purchased by a person. Their name also goes into a database to log the transaction.

After legislation went into effect limiting the amount of pseudoephedrine someone could buy, they said drug pushers tried to outsmart the system.

“If you come in to buy pseudoephedrine-containing products under false pretenses that you are going to use them, and then you in turn sell it to someone who is cooking meth with it, that would be considering what we call smurfing,” said Williams.

Beshear joined an awareness campaign to teach people about the dangers of "smurfing." Officials said it is an act that could lead to serious consequences.

“As long as we can tie it back to an original purchaser that has already purchased their limit of that ingredient, than yes, it is a crime to pay someone to go get that same ingredient, because the person who got it is over their limit,” said East.
East explained this is a crime when someone knew they were giving the drug to someone who was making meth with it.

“You would just be a go-between between the pharmacy and the actual meth cooker, so it's just as wrong as manufacturing methamphetamine in our eyes, I think,” said Williams.

Under federal law, if someone is caught purchasing pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture or distribute, someone could face charges. East said if the person buying the drug has reasonable cause to believe it will be used by someone else to do this, they could face up to twenty years in prison for committing the crime.

For more information, visit http://www.meth-knowtheconsequences.org/

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