Drug Enforcement Administration

Los Angeles

Special Agent in Charge, Special Agent in Charge

November 04, 2011

Contact: SA Kyle Mori

Phone Number: (213) 576-8310

Claremont Woman And Son Among Four Charged In Conspiracy Related To ‘Purple Drank’ Distribution

Third Defendant in Case Makes Initial Appearance Today in Federal Court

LOS ANGELES, CA - The third of four defendants charged in a money laundering scheme related to a narcotics ring that sent a powerful and often-abused cough syrup from Southern California to Texas, where it was distributed under street names such as “purple drank,” is scheduled to make his initial appearance this afternoon in United States District Court.

Christopher Lamont Crawford, 38, of Houston, was arrested in Texas in October after being named in an indictment that charges him and three others in a conspiracy to launder money obtained from the unlawful distribution of promethazine.

In addition to Crawford, the two-count indictment charges:

  • Lucita Uy, 70, of Claremont;
  • Uy’s son, Lemuel Libunao, 42, of Claremont; and
  • Kendra Patrice Manigault, 44, of Houston, who was arrested on October 12 and has a court hearing in Houston scheduled for this afternoon.

Uy and Libunao were arrested on October 6, 2011 and subsequently pleaded not guilty to two counts: conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to structure cash transactions to evade federal reporting requirements. When Uy and Libunao were arraigned, the case was assigned to United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II, who scheduled a trial for November 29, 2011.

“More than twice as many Americans abuse prescription drugs than those using cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants combined,” said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “DEA is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who endanger our communities by distributing these dangerous drugs are brought to justice.”

Promethazine is commonly known on the street as “purple drank,” “syrup,” “purple liquid” and “lean,” with the latter name coming from the abuser’s difficulty in standing up straight. Promethazine is a central nervous system depressant which can cause death if it is combined with alcohol.

According to court documents, Uy acquired three pharmacies - Plaza Pharmacy in Santa Ana, Value Plus Pharmacy in Long Beach, and Blue Rose Pharmacy in Buena Park - so she could obtain promethazine from wholesale distributors. From September 2004 through July 2008, Uy allegedly spent more than $1.1 million to purchase nearly 100,000 pints of promethazine. While a one-pint bottle of promethazine costs no more than $9 at the wholesale level, the same bottle sells for as much as $600 on the streets of Houston. After purchasing the promethazine, Uy allegedly had the drug shipped to Texas.

The indictment alleges that Crawford and Manigault acquired promethazine from Uy, unlawfully distributed the narcotic, and provided Uy with the proceeds of the sales. According to the indictment, Uy, along with Libunao and Crawford, deposited more than $6.9 million in cash and more than $2.7 million in money orders into bank accounts.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

In conjunction with the indictment, the IRS - Criminal Investigation is seeking to forfeit property allegedly obtained with the proceeds of the illegal distribution scheme. The property to be forfeited includes seven real properties located in Monrovia, Claremont and Houston; $64,500 in cash; a 2007 Mercedes Benz S550; a 2007 Honda CRV; a 2007 Toyota Tundra; and 11 luxury watches including a Rolex trimmed in diamonds.

“The allegations against Uy and her co-conspirators indicate they intended to enrich themselves by engaging in conduct that put the lives of others at risk,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Leslie P. DeMarco. “One of the government’s most powerful weapons is the ability to seize through asset forfeiture the property obtained through this illegal distribution scheme, including real estate, cash, vehicles and jewelry. By taking away their assets and profits, we deprive them of the proceeds of their criminal activity.”

If they are convicted of the charges in the indictment, Uy and Libunao would face a statutory maximum sentence of 25 years in federal prison, while Crawford and Manigault would each face up to 20 years in prison.

The investigation in this case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS - Criminal Investigation.

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