Kent Co. prosecutor warns of ‘smurfing’ amid meth comeback

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County prosecutor says the crackdown on heroin and prescription drugs is having unintended consequences:

“Meth is making a comeback. It’s as simple as that. Not only in Kent County, but across the state,” he said during a Monday news conference at Keystone Pharmacy in Grand Rapids Township.

“We’re talking about a third wave, another wave of meth coming through right now because there is crackdowns on heroin, there’s crackdowns on prescription drugs, so people are looking for other avenues. And one of those other avenues is meth,” he added.

Becker says his office has handled 47 methamphetamine cases so far this year, surpassing last year’s total of 44 meth cases.

“That means there’s more users out there. More users means there’s money to be made. There’s money to be made in delivering meth,” Becker said.

The prosecutor says while the number of meth labs busted across Kent County and statewide have dropped, another problem is emerging.

“We’re seeing a lot more of the Mexican meth come up. It’s imported. But once you see more money in it, people are going to try to do it,” Becker warned about local meth production.

That’s where “smurfing” comes in. One of the key ingredients in meth-making is over-the-counter cold and allergy medications that contain pseudoephedrine. Michigan law restricts the amount of such medicine shoppers can buy, so meth manufacturers must manipulate other people into buy it for them, which is known as smurfing.

“The system works, they’re preventing the sales. But you’ve got to be vigilant. You’ve got to remain and be vigilant because people are going to try to do this again,” Becker warned.

Under Michigan law, anyone caught aiding meth production in this way could spend five years in prison and pay up to $5,000, even if they don’t know for certain the medicine they’re buying is going toward making meth. Suspicion is enough.

“It’s a five-year felony if you have reason to believe,” Becker emphasized.

When it comes to falling victim to a smurfing scheme, Becker says your best defense is common sense.

“Compare it to when you go to the airport, and somebody asks you to take their luggage for $50, are you going to do that? No, because everybody is aware of what the consequences are and how bad, there’s probably something bad happening,” Becker said.

In 2012, Michigan targeted meth production by joining the National Precursor Log Exchange system – an electronic database that blocks people from illegally purchasing pseudoephedrine and flags any attempts to illegally buy such medicine. Advocates say last year, the system stopped more than 64,000 boxes of medicine with pseudoephedrine from being illegally sold in Michigan, preventing nearly 174,000 grams of pseudoephedrine from potentially falling into the hands of criminals.

“We don’t want to create any more problems. We don’t want to create another wave of cooking things and explosions and hazmat suits in Kent County or anywhere for that matter in Michigan,” Becker said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

24 Hour News 8 Links