This time last year, several healthcare providers and pharmacies notified the State Bureau of Investigation that they suspected fraudulent prescriptions were being made out for codeine syrup and other drugs.
Codeine, the SBI knew, is sometimes used illicitly by mixing it with a soda like 7-Up or Sprite. The resulting drink is known as “lean,” “purple drank” or, with the addition of a hard candy, “Sizzurp.” Some people use these drinks to get high.
Now, the SBI says that “Operation Sizzurp” resulted in six people being arrested and charged with a total of 37 felonies. The arrests occurred in Mecklenburg, Guilford, Forsyth, Iredell, Stanly and Union counties.
In a news release, the SBI said that the operation had dismantled and disrupted a regional drug fraud network that operated from Mecklenburg County to the Triad. The people are suspected of passing illegal codeine and other prescriptions at numerous pharmacies around the state.
What were people charged with and what are the potential penalties?
The six people who were arrested ranged in age from 27 to 44. Each person was charged with multiple felonies and sometimes multiple counts of the same felony. The charges sometimes included attempt and conspiracy counts. Here are the charges that were brought, along with their general felony classes and penalties:
- Obtaining a controlled substance by fraud/forgery, if intentional, is a Class I felony that could mean 3 to 12 months in prison
- Obtaining property by false pretense is a Class H felony, which is punishable by a sentence of 4-25 months in prison
- Selling or delivering a Schedule V controlled substance is a Class H felony, which is punishable by a sentence of 4 to 25 months in prison
- Trafficking opium or heroin comes with a sentence that depends on the amount involved, but the mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking in 4 grams is 70 months in prison and a fine of $50,000
The actual sentence someone receives depends, in most cases, upon the person’s prior criminal record, along with any aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
These charges come with serious penalties. It’s unlikely that anyone involved in obtaining drugs for Sizzurp, lean or purple drank could have foreseen what they were in for.
Have you heard of people using codeine-laced drinks in your community? Do you think it’s a problem that law enforcement should spend months of effort tracking down? Do you think society should throw the book at those involved?