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Mo. AG, prosecutors announce anti-smurfing effort

Bill Draper, Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Posters soon will be popping up around Missouri warning shoppers that they could get in trouble with the law by buying medications that contain pseudoephedrine for methamphetamine makers.

Attorney General Chris Koster, Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and representatives of pharmacy and retailers groups were in Kansas City on Wednesday to kick off a statewide public awareness campaign targeting the practice of "smurfing."

Missouri law limits the amount of products containing pseudoephedrine that individuals can buy, and also tracks purchases by requiring buyers to sign a registry. The drug, which is found in some cold medicines, is a key ingredient in the manufacture of meth.

To get around the state's restrictions, meth makers sometimes pay others to purchase pseudoephedrine products for them, including strangers who may not realize it's a crime, Koster said.

"The anti-smurfing campaign is not a silver bullet, but I am confident it will make those who consider buying products to help a meth cook think twice before making an unlawful purchase," Koster said.

Missouri routinely has the highest number of seized meth labs in the country, putting additional pressure on law enforcement to combat the drug.

"Missouri needs to get off the top of that list," Koster said at a news conference in a mid-town grocery store.

As part of the awareness campaign, retailers will be putting up educational posters warning smurfers of the consequences they could face if caught. Missouri is the third state targeted by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, or CHPA, which devised the campaign.

Koster said the level of offense depends on how involved the smurfer is with the meth cook. Someone who routinely buys pseudoephedrine products to sell to drug makers could be prosecuted for conspiracy to manufacture meth, a felony, he said.

The Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri Pharmacy Association and CHPA are sponsoring the campaign.