Drug unit cracking down on “smurfing”

Published 7:37 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Top, from left: Pamela Koonce, Peggy Pucket, James Turner; bottom, from left: Alfred Little, Darrell Cab

Top, from left: Pamela Koonce, Peggy Pucket, James Turner; bottom, from left: Alfred Little, Darrell Cab

Smurfing is a term known in certain circles, referring to the purchase of pseudoephedrine to make methamphetamine, a highly toxic, addictive drug. Local law enforcement is now cracking down on those who buy the drug for meth-makers.

“We want to send a strong message to everyone in Beaufort County that any participation in the cooking of methamphetamine, we’re going to arrest you,” said Lt. Russell Davenport, head of the drug unit.

Davenport said the effort led to the arrest of five people in relation to a Nov. 24 meth bust on Warf Road in Washington, in which two people were charged with manufacturing the drug. A third was charged with conspiracy — charges stemming from “smurfing.”

“This investigation, we worked on a little bit longer so we could learn more about who was smurfing,” Davenport said.

Darrell Cabe 43, of Robersonville, Pamela Koonce, 29, of Washington, Alfred Little, 42, of Washington, Peggy Pucket, 51, of Greenville, and James Turner, 31, of Washington, were arrested Dec. 2. Each was charged with conspiracy manufacture meth and distribution of pseudoephedrine, a meth precursor, and was held at the Beaufort County Detention Center under a $10,000 secured bond.

“We’ve noticeable seen an increase of people using meth, but we’ve also seen an increase in meth being imported, instead of being manufactured. In other words, we’re getting it from cartels in Mexico. I would say our arrests have doubled in the past two years involving meth use and meth production,” Davenport said.

Putting a halt to meth production in Beaufort County hinges on preventing people from purchasing pseudoephedrine, he said. Pseudoephedrine is used in antihistamines and decongestants, but its use as meth ingredient has led to purchase limitations and a tracking system to keep tabs on its purchase. Davenport said the drug unit makes regular use of the NPLEx (National Precursor Log Exchange) system.

“We used the NPLEx system to track these people down and gathered video from stores where they’re actually purchasing pseudoephedrine,” Davenport said. These people are used to purchase the pseudoephedrine. … If we don’t arrest these smurfers then they’re going to continue to smurf and they’re going to continue to get the ingredients to cook meth.”