Four arrested in street drug smuggling

HOUSTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Authorities say they cracked a ring that smuggled prescription-strength cough syrup into Houston to make a deadly potion popular in the hip-hop world.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said the ring used its own rogue pharmacies in California to purchase 97,000 pints of the syrup used to make "Purple Drank," the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.

The syrup goes for $300 to $600 a pint on the streets of Houston, authorities said, and was enough to provide at least 1.5 million doses.

"This is a big case, but I wish it was the only one," Sarah Pullen, a spokeswoman for the DEA in Los Angeles, said. "It would definitely supply a lot of people."

The popular but illegal beverage, a mixture of cough syrup containing codeine with carbonated soda and candy for flavor, sells for nearly twice as much in Houston as it does in Los Angeles, authorities said.

The DEA said it has arrested the alleged ringleader, Lucita Uy, a 70-year-old grandmother originally from the Philippines.

Uy has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy along with her son, Lemuel Libunao, and two other defendants.

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