Harrison Garcia was a sucker for a good selfie.
The Miami hip-hop scenester, known to his friends as “Cuban Harry,” boasted more than 36,000 followers on Instagram, and the account was an endless showcase of Garcia’s gold-plated good life.
There were pictures of Garcia flashing diamond mouth grills. Spewing out a Vesuvius-amount of smoke. Showing off a riot of body tattoos. Aiming guns. Palling with superstars like Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. And often, mugging for the camera with his hands around a double stack of Styrofoam cups — the preferred receptacle for “purple drank,” the high-powered and home-brewed cough syrup cocktail hoisted and celebrated in Southern rap circles.
But Garcia was doing more than guzzling. According to federal prosecutors, Garcia was responsible for pumping the South Florida music scene with the concoction, a mix of promethazine with codeine, soda, and Jolly Ranchers also known as “sizzurp” and “lean.” The government contends not only did Garcia supply major music stars, but he also quarterbacked a crew of robbers who broke into drugstores to obtain the expensive ingredients.
From the evidence and testimony put forward by the state at a trial in April, the government’s best source on Garcia’s activities was Garcia himself. The 27-year-old relentlessly boasted online, referring to himself as the “CEO of Purple Drank” and even sporting a pendant featuring a diamond-encrusted Styrofoam cup.
A jury, however, did not buy the music producer’s claims in court that it was all empty talk to boost his social media standing and street cred. Last Friday, a federal judge handed Garcia a 30-year sentence after his conviction on drug trafficking charges, closing the door on a strange story where hip-hop fact and fantasy blurred.
“Mr. Garcia was definitely a very prominent mover,” Tony Salisbury, a deputy special agent in charge with the Department of Homeland Security, told the Miami New Times last July. “He was one of the largest dealers that we’ve encountered.”
According to court records, DHS first opened an investigation into Garcia for trafficking both “purple drank” and marijuana in August 2015.
“Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement monitored Garcia’s use of his Instagram page to traffic illegal controlled substances,” a law enforcement affidavit later stated. “Records provided by Instagram pursuant to the search warrant revealed direct messages sent and received by Garcia in which Garcia negotiated with customers for the sale of promethazine with codeine, marijuana, and other controlled substances, and agreed to provide the requested narcotics.”
In August and September 2016, Homeland Security agents monitored Garcia selling promethazine with codeine and marijuana to a confidential informant twice, for $1,900 and $2,630, respectively. In October 2016, law enforcement conducted a raid on Garcia’s home in Miami; police found both a Glock and a FN semiautomatic pistol, two pounds of marijuana, and a bottle of promethazine with codeine valued on the street at $1,000, court records show.
After his arrest, Garcia directed police to a stash house in suburban Miami. There, law enforcement found a fully loaded AK-47 assault rifle, a loaded Uzi submachine gun, and 3,000 Xanax pills. A federal grand jury eventually indicted Garcia on five drug trafficking charges.
According to the Miami Herald, at a pretrial hearing last January, Garcia admitted he was a “purple drank” user, but said his drug dealing social media posts were all persona. “I had an image to portray, to boost up my followers,” he said. “I guess it’s just the music industry. … I was never a drug trafficker.”
“Harrison Garcia is just a young, foolish man who got caught up in the rap world, drugs, the glamour,” Garcia’s defense lawyer, Ted Mastos, told the court in January, according to the Herald. “This all begins stupidly by him putting this stuff out on Instagram.”
Prosecutors, however, argued Garcia’s efforts were far more extensive. Police in South Florida linked Garcia to four individuals — Alonzo Hinson, Bryan Pitter, Darrish Martin, and Chantelle Ponce — charged in burglaries of Walgreens stores. (Ponce and Pitter both reportedly took plea deals and are working with the state)
The Herald reported the group “is accused of donning masks and using crowbars to enter the pharmacies to steal the cough syrup and other drugs.” Police believe the group could have been behind 50 burglaries. “Garcia has organized, facilitated, finances and directed co-conspirators to commit burglaries … in order to obtain stolen narcotics for re-sale,” a Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputy wrote in a warrant related to the case.
At his federal trial, prosecutors accused Garcia of selling purple drank to big names in the music industry. The evidence, coupled with the recorded drug buys and online boasting, was enough for a jury to return guilty verdicts for all five of the charges. Garcia also faces racketeering charges in state court related to the burglary ring.
At his sentencing hearing last Friday before U.S. Judge Patricia Seitz, the street tough braggadocio that initially got Garcia in trouble was gone. “I want to briefly apologize to my parents and your honor,” Garcia said according to the Herald. “Hopefully, I learn from this.”
More from Morning Mix