Claremont Insider: Keeping Up Appearances

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Keeping Up Appearances

The Claremont Police Department must be right about budget cutbacks leading to increased crime in town.  The Daily Bulletin reports that a Claremont woman and her son were arrested for trafficking in cough syrup:

A Claremont woman and her son are among four defendants who have been charged with money laundering related to a pharmaceutical distribution ring.

Lucita Uy, 70, and her son Lemuel Libunao, 42, both of Claremont were allegedly part of a narcotics ring that sent the powerful cough syrup Promethazine from Southern California to Texas where it was often sold at a high markup, according to information from the United States Attorney's Office.

Why the huge markup? According to the federal indictment, promethazine is used as a narcotic that gives users "a similar 'high' as one would get from heroin," and the indictment lists some significant side effects from abusing the drug:
Promethazine is commonly known on the street as "syrup," purple syrup," "purple liquid," and/or "lean," the latter due to the abuser's difficulty in standing up straight. Promethazine is a central nervous depressant and when combined with alcohol can result in death or serious bodily injury.

The indictment accuses Uy and Libunao of setting up pharmacies in Long Beach, Santa Ana, and Buena Park. They are alleged to have then had those businesses purchase the one-point bottles of the cough syrup at wholesale prices of between $6.95 and $8.95. The same bottle has an LA street value of $150 to $200, the indictment said. In Houston, TX, the street value for that pint of syrup runs from $300 to $600.

The indictment alleges that starting in July, 2008, Uy spent over $1,100,000 to buy more than 97,000 pints of promethazine. The drug was then moved from California to Texas in at least 24 shipments. The indictment further states that Uy, Libunao, a person named Christopher Crawford, and other unnamed people took the proceeds from the Houston sales and deposited over $6.9 million in cash and another $2.7 million in money orders in various California bank accounts, including banks in Arcadia and Monrovia. The deposits were split up into increments of $10,000 or less to avoid triggering automatic reporting by the banks to federal authorities.

Here's the actual indictment (click on the small "S" in the lower left corner to enlarge):
Lucita Uy 2011 Indictment

The indictment also indicated that Uy and Libunao put their alleged drug profits into such assets as jewelry and real estate, including the August 17, 2007 purchase of a home in Claremont.

We wondered what sort of people the accused are, so we snooped around and found another federal indictment in 1998 for Lucita Uy in Texas.  That arrest was for accusations of an insurance fraud scheme involving a Houston medical business called Solid Medical Clinic and the law office of attorney named James Earl Conley.  The court records seem to indicate that Uy made a plea agreement and received probation, which ended in 2002.

Here's that indictment:
Lucita Uy 1998 TX Indict

Lemuel Libunao
Uy's son Lemuel Libunao didn't appear to have much in the way of a criminal history, at least in federal court.  In fact, he appears to be a sportsman and an artist.  Libunao's My Space page describes his love of golf with an apt analogy: driver was hopeless. The more I tried to hit that prefect draw, the more prolific my slice became. The day was getting colder and colder. Light was becoming more fleeting. We had to rush to finish, and today was daylight saving time. I scored three over my goal. So what does this little story have to do with life? Everything is not what is always supposed to be.

 Click to Enlarge

Libunao is also a photographer and is listed on   His bio there says he was once a freelance photographer but, like many an aspiring artist, had to put aside his art in order to pursue a career:
I was a Freelance photographer for many years..I did a lot of glamour back then in the early 90's. I paid my dues in the Photography biz.

Then i got a degree and followed a career that was a lot more stable for me. It worked out great. I left my passion for a while to persue other career avenues.

Now that things are more settled, I am getting back in the photography game once more. This Time it is a passion not work.

The career, whatever it was, allowed Libunao to live a life of luxury in a home on New Hampshire Ave. in the far northeast corner of Claremont, just south of Mt. Baldy Rd. and within easy walking distance of Padua Park.

Here are some photos from Libunao's My Space page showing him enjoying the fruits of his labors:

All of which just goes to show that Claremonters lead very interesting lives, and we may just never be what we appear to be.