We usually think of our friendly neighborhood meth dealer as a stringy-haired guy with a few missing teeth and a stained wife beater who lives in a van down by the river.

Who knew that one of the biggest players in the Meth biz in Southern California was none other than the nation's biggest corporate pharmacy, CVS, at least according to Los Angeles-based federal authorities, who announced today that …

… CVS Pharmacy, Inc., the biggest operator of retail pharmacies in the United States, has admitted that it unlawfully sold pseudoephedrine to criminals who made methamphetamine.

Psuedoephedrine is that speedy cold medication found in Sudafed and other brands. What pisses us off here is that if you go to CVS to buy some because you actually need it to treat cold symptoms, they scan your ID and make you sign a document.

The idea is that you be limited to how often you could buy the medication — they'd have your info on file.

So, after all that, they were still letting the bad guys repeatedly by psuedoephedrine?

Yes, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office:

CVS supplied large amounts of pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine traffickers in Southern California, and the company's illegal sales led directly to an increase in methamphetamine production in California. CVS eventually changed its sales practices to prevent these illegal sales, but it did so only after it became aware of the government's investigation.

Federal authorities said meth makers discovered that CVS wasn't limiting the number of same-day purchases of psuedoephedrine in 2007 and thus started “smurfing” — buying as much of the cold medication as they and “sometimes cleaning out store shelves,” according to the U.S. Attorney's statement.

What's the damage?

A $75 million hit (civil penalties) along with $2.6 million in profits from the drug that will no go to Uncle Sam.

“This case shows what happens when companies fail to follow their ethical and legal responsibilities,” said L.A.-based U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. “CVS knew it had a duty to prevent methamphetamine trafficking, but it failed to take steps to control the sale of a regulated drug used by methamphetamine cooks as an essential ingredient for their poisonous stew.”

As part of the $75 million deal the feds agreed not to pursue criminal charges against the chain.

Somewhere in Southern California there's a toothless meth-head sniffling right now, with his eyes watering. And it's not because he has a cold.

LA Weekly