Boca Raton Businessman Faces Criminal Charges For Manufacturing Counterfeit Lean
In 2022, no one is surprised to find out that doctors and pharmaceutical companies play a role in drug crimes. If you search the archives of South Florida news sites, you will find plenty of stories about doctors who illegally prescribed drugs with high abuse potential, healthcare workers who stole controlled substances from their workplace for their own use or for resale, and widespread health insurance fraud in the field of addiction treatment. From the pill mills to the Florida shuffle, people who are legally authorized to handle controlled substances also handle them illegally often enough for it not to be an anomaly when they do. Despite this, we still think of the manufacture of counterfeit prescription drugs as something that takes place in dark basements or in countries that most Floridians would struggle to find on a map before these fake prescription drugs are sold on the dark web and shipped by post by bogus return addresses. Therefore, it is still newsworthy when someone who has the licenses and equipment to make real prescription drugs makes fake ones. Here, our Miami drug crimes defense lawyer explains how a South Florida man made the purple drank flow slowly through East Texas for years before getting busted on a golf course in Boca Raton.
The Marshall Drug Trafficking Organization
Call it lean, sizzurp, or purple drank, but the sickly-sweet, slow-moving beverage with the violet hue has inspired many a summer anthem in the parts of the United States where it is sunny year-round. Its sweetness comes from Sprite or other sugary sodas (including grape Fanta or grape Welch’s if you like your purple drank an especially deep shade of purple), and its jewel tone color comes from Jolly Rancher candies (usually grape, but any flavor will do), but lean gets its euphoric slowness from promethazine-codeine cough syrup. This cough syrup is available only by prescription and is sold legally (to pharmacies, of course) by a variety of manufacturers, many of whom include purple food coloring to the active ingredients.
Houston, Texas is the undisputed home of lean. People have been drinking it for decades and adjusting the formula until they got the perfect taste, mouthfeel, and effects. In the 1990s, Houston’s own DJ Screw famously rhapsodized about it over slowed-down beats and made the entire Sun Belt appreciate the languid beauty of lean before he fatally overdosed on the stuff in 2000. Unsurprisingly, the most famous lyrical shout outs to lean have come from Southerners like Lil Nas X of Georgia and Lil Wayne of Louisiana. Even Miami music producer Harrison Garcia, who is currently serving a prison sentence for drug crimes and seeking to overturn his conviction, named his Instagram account Muhammad_a_lean.
Thus, promethazine-codeine cough syrup continues to fetch a much higher price in Houston and its environs than it does in notoriously pricey L.A. The Marshall drug trafficking organization (DTO) figured this out at least as early as 2014 and set about looking for manufacturers to produce bottles of promethazine-codeine cough syrup with labels identical to those of licensed manufacturers. The leaders of the DTO, Byron Marshall and Tunji Campbell, conspired with other defendants to manufacture counterfeit cough syrup and distribute it throughout the southeastern United States.
The Charges: Trafficking in Drugs With a Counterfeit Mark and Money Laundering Conspiracy
Woodfield Pharmaceutical LLC is a pharmaceutical manufacturing company based in Boca Raton; its owner is Adam Runsdorf. The company has a factory in Texas, where one of its executive employees, Kalpen Patel, met with Marshall and Campbell to discuss the company’s participation in the manufacture of counterfeit syrup. Eventually, the Marshall DTO asked Woodfield to produce bigger orders, even meeting with Runsdorf and paying him a $30,000 advance. Woodfield produced promethazine-codeine cough syrup with labels that imitated widely distributed brands such as Atavis and Hi-Tech.
Defendant Arrested on Country Club Golf Course
The DEA investigated the Marshall DTO for years, eventually enlisting some of its members as confidential informants to make purchases from other members. In January 2022, having obtained a warrant, officers arrested Runsdorf as he played golf at the Woodfield Country Club in Palm Beach County. The following month, Runsdorf was indicted, along with Campbell, Marshall, and eight other defendants, all of whom live in Texas. Runsdorf, 56, faces charges for conspiracy, trafficking in drugs with a counterfeit mark, and money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Contact Our Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys
A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are being accused of illegally manufacturing or distributing controlled substances. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami for a free, confidential consultation about your case.