Crime

California man passed fake cough syrup prescriptions in Boise, until police noticed

U.S. District Court in Boise
U.S. District Court in Boise jsowell@idahostatesman.com

Jalin Russell-Halfacre, 22, arrived in Boise early this year with a fraudulent prescription pad hoping to score the main ingredient in an illicit, candy-flavored cough syrup cocktail known on the streets as “sizzurp.”

He planned to return home to Sacramento, Calif., and sell pint-sized bottles of Phenergan with codeine on the black market for several times the $30 he paid per bottle. Instead, he and three other people were arrested before they could leave Boise in February, and Russell-Halfacre pleaded guilty Wednesday to obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

Sizzurp contains a mixture of codeine-based cough syrup, soda pop and often Jolly Rancher candy. It is highly addictive and can be deadly when consumed in heavy amounts and especially if combined with other drugs and alcohol.

Codeine, an opiate, creates a feeling of euphoria. The cough syrup also contains the drug promethazine, which acts as a sedative. The mixture is also known as syrup, purple drank (because of its color) or “lean” (because users tend to lean over).

“In my experience working on these types of cases, we’re seeing this codeine syrup sell for up to $800 per bottle," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Atwood, who is prosecuting the case.

Codeine and promethazine abuse can depress the central nervous and respiratory systems and stop the heart and lungs. It can also cause seizures, hallucinations, memory loss, nausea, impaired vision and dizziness.

Rapper Lil Wayne was hospitalized back in 2013 after reported use of sizzurp, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time. It was widely reported that Justin Bieber also abused sizzurp earlier this decade before giving it up.

In Boise, a pharmacist on Feb. 5 notified police that fraudulent prescriptions were being presented to pharmacies throughout the city.

Officers conducted surveillance at one of the pharmacies, where they saw Russell-Halfacre attempt to obtain a bottle of the liquid cough syrup. Police followed Russell-Halfacre and an accomplice, later identified as Breya Emani Green, 22, as they traveled to several pharmacies.

At each stop, they observed Russell-Halfacre go into the drugstore and return carrying a white pharmacy bag, according to court documents.

At one of the stores, officers approached Russell-Halfacre in the parking lot and searched his car. They found three bottles containing a total of 44 ounces of the prescription cough syrup.

Each of the prescriptions that Russell-Halfacre passed contained the name of a Meridian doctor. The doctor told police he did not authorize the prescriptions and his signature was forged. And he said that neither Russell-Halfacre nor Green were patients of his.

During a search of Russell-Halfacre’s hotel room, police found 19 sheets of blank prescription paper. In his phone, they found photos of fraudulent prescriptions and messages discussing the fraudulent prescription scheme and the sale of codeine-based cough syrup.

Russell-Halfacre, who is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 10, faces up to four years in prison. Three other defendants have cases pending.

Green, also from Sacramento, and Jazmine Deshon Lockhart, 22, of Las Vegas, are charged with possession of a controlled substance.

A fourth defendant, Torrie Lamont Garrett, 23, from Las Vegas, is charged with obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell

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