A Miami music producer who dubbed himself Cuban Harry is a fixture on the international hip-hop scene, jet-setting with big-name stars, driving exotic cars and posing with bundles of cash on social media.
But music wasn’t the only thing he was producing, investigators say.
On Monday, they charged Cuban Harry — whose real name is Harrison Garcia — with masterminding dozens of South Florida pharmacy burglaries, thefts that supplied the powerful pain-killers he used to brew a drink celebrated in more than a few rap songs over the years. The stuff, a jolting mix of codeine and sweet soda, is best known as “lean” but also goes by “sizzurp” and “drank.”
State authorities charged the 26-year-old with racketeering, grand theft and trafficking in illegal drugs. He’ll be added to the pending trials of three men and a woman facing prosecution for dozens of pharmacy burglaries stretching from Plantation to Homestead.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Garcia was already facing separate federal charges of illegally selling the prescription-strength syrup of promethazine with codeine. In October, agents accused him of using his Instagram account – which boasts more than 37,000 followers – to set up deals to sell the drink popular with some club-goers.
Hialeah police arrested Garcia, who despite wearing a federal ankle monitor because of his upcoming trial, they say was found with a bottle of the cough syrup. That drew him an additional felony charge.
He remained in custody on Monday night. His attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
Variations of the drink have become popular in hip-hop imagery and songs over the past decade, with rappers such as Lil’ Wayne, Young Thug and Future dropping odes to the concoction. But health experts warn the drink, which some have dubbed “liquid heroin,” poses serious risks.
Rapper Pimp C, who helped popularize lean, died in part because of an overdose on the drink in 2008. More recently, rapper Lil’ Wayne suffered seizures after apparently drinking massive amounts of the cocktail, according to celebrity gossip website TMZ.
Garcia’s “lean” use wasn’t exactly low-profile. His Instagram account features “lean” in the screen name and he frequently posted photos of disposable cups and Fanta soda used in the potent concoction.
His social media pages also displayed a lifestyle straight out of a rap video. He proudly shows off flashy gold chains, jewel-encrusted teeth and a gallery of large tattoos, including one of the fictional drug kingpin Scarface flashing an assault rifle.
He has been known to hang with Lil’ Wayne – Garcia appeared holding stacks of cash in the music video for the song “Cut it Freestyle.”
He’s also affiliated with the rapper and singer Chris Brown and his crew known as OHB, or Original Hood Bosses. He once posted a photo showing himself on airport runway accompanying Brown in Albania for a show.
Garcia has also been pictured on Instagram with former Miami Heat star Gerald Green.
Investigators zeroed in on Garcia more than a year ago when they discovered he was using his Instagram page to sell marijuana and the lean drink, according to court records. A search warrant revealed that Garcia was using the app’s direct messaging feature to do deals.
Garcia sold drugs to an informant working with the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents on two occasions, for a total of $4,530, according to court documents.
A search of his house revealed two pistols, two pounds of marijuana, a scale, empty baggies for packaging and a bottle of promethazine with codeine worth $1,000 on the street, according to court records. They also found several high-end rides – including a Porsche Panamera and a Polaris Slingshot, a futuristic-looking 3-wheeled motorbike.
Records show Garcia also took agents to a stash house in Kendall, where they found another cache of weapons, including an AK47, and more than 3,000 Xanax pills, which are often used illegally on the party scene.
It was after his arrest that Garcia was linked to the cases of Alonzo Hinson, Bryan Pitter, Darrish Martin, and Martin’s girlfriend, Chantelle Ponce, who already have been charged with at a slew of burglaries of Walgreens stores. They are all awaiting trial.
The group is accused of donning masks and using crowbars to enter the pharmacies to steal the cough syrup and and other drugs – all at the direction of Garcia. More than 50 burglaries are believed to be tied to Garcia, according to an arrest warrant.
“Garcia has organized, facilitated, finances and directed co-conspirators to commit burglaries ... in order to obtain stolen narcotics for re-sale,” Broward Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Shane Schroeder wrote in the warrant.
Police believe Martin – an aspiring rapper who was pictured on his own Instagram account with the stolen Walgreens’ merchandise – recruited the others to help him do the burglaries. Detectives say that Garcia and Ponce later called Martin while he was in jail, talking about selling “Purple Rain” – a code name for the spiked drink.
Ponce later told investigators that Garcia would pay Martin $7,000 per burglary and she “had witnessed Garcia with celebrity music personalities such as Chris Brown and Little Wayne,” according to the warrant.
Text messages between Martin and Garcia also provided evidence of the plot, according to the warrant released by the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office, which spearheaded the case with various law-enforcement agencies, including the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, Hialeah police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Garcia’s phone also revealed numerous photos and videos of the products stolen from the pharmacy. Ponce’s brother also admitted to selling stolen drugs to Garcia, according to court filings.