Monday, Sept. 21, 2009 | 3:35 p.m.
A Las Vegas woman was arrested Monday morning on federal fraud charges for false advertising and distributing on her Web site an "herbal" alternative to street drugs.
That alternative was actually an active ingredient in cough syrup and a known drug of abuse among teenagers and young adults, said U.S. Attorney Greg Brower of Nevada.
Authorities arrested 34-year-old Yamila Abraham at her home, Brower said. She is charged in a criminal indictment with seven counts of mail fraud, one count of misbranding a drug, one count of introducing goods into domestic commerce by means of false statement and criminal forfeiture.
From about January 2004 to August 2006, Abraham is alleged to have operated a Web site called www.Pleasureherbs.com, which offered for sale "herbal" alternatives to recreational street drugs, including a product known as "Snurf."
On her site, Abraham said that "Snurf" is "the long awaited pill form of 10X extractions of Fevizia, Palenzia and De la Amazon. Each tablet contains 500 mg of these herbal extracts per pill."
In reality, "Snurf" contained no herbal supplements, but it exclusively contained dextromethorphan hydrobromide (DXM), which is a stimulant and the active ingredient in over-the-counter cough suppressants, the government said.
The amounts of DXM in "Snurf" far exceeded the Food and Drug Administration's recommended dosage for cough suppression. The indictment alleges that the labeling of the "Snurf" was false and misleading and did not have adequate directions for use or adequate warnings.
Abraham bought DXM in bulk from sources around the country and had it repackaged in capsules for sale as "Snurf," the government said.
The indictment alleges that on May 25, 2005, Abraham said that roughly 20,000 tablets containing DXM were actually 20,000 tablets of vitamin B-12. Between Nov. 22, 2005 and May 1, 2006, Abraham mailed seven packages of "Snurf" from Las Vegas to several places in California, Springfield, Ill., and Indianapolis.
If convicted, Abraham faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each mail fraud count, up to one year in prison and a $250,000 fine on drug misbranding, and up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on introducing goods into commerce by false statements, Brower said.
In addition, if convicted, the government seeks forfeiture of properties from Abraham from the proceeds of the crimes up to $186,680, as well as 20,000 tablets of DXM and any equipment used by her to make counterfeit drugs, Brower said.
This case is being investigated by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Crane M. Pomerantz.