Live 5 News investigates: Stolen laundry detergent being traded for drugs

Live 5 News Investigates: Suds for Drugs

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A Live 5 News investigation has found the laundry detergent you buy to wash your clothes is being stolen from stores by addicts to satisfy their crack cocaine fix.

It's happening all over the country and right here in the Lowcountry.

Tide is one of the most popular and most recognized laundry detergents around. Most people use it to wash their clothes. However, authorities say criminals are stealing Tide and some other well known detergents from stores.

"Drug traffickers prefer cash, but when their customers, people with chemical dependencies can't provide cash in exchange for drugs, drug traffickers will often direct them to steal items," U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Tim Davis says.

Davis says that includes laundry detergent.

"Well the thing about laundry detergent is everyone uses it. It's a retail item that costs a fair amount of money that everyone needs. It's not just one or two bottles. You're talking about many bottles. Typically the larger bottles or the pods are starting to come into play now," Davis said. "I do know it has happened in this area."

It happened at a CVS pharmacy back in February. Charleston Police arrested 54 year LaPrince Lawson. According to a police report, Lawson stole four Tide pods from the pharmacy.

Investigators couldn't tell us if they believe the detergent was going to be traded for drugs.

Davis says most of the time the drug dealers don't keep the stolen detergent for themselves. They sell it on the black market for cash, at a lower price than what it costs in a store.

On the streets, it's known as liquid gold.

"I think that's because it can be converted to cash and that's the whole goal, like many stolen items. If a drug trafficker can convert it to cash on the black market, it has value," Davis said.

While most of us are buying laundry detergent to clean clothes, others are using it for downright dirty purposes.

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