3 Get Prison For Selling 'Pancakes & Syrup' Drug

Posted: March 29, 1989

The former owner of an East Falls drugstore, his pharmacist, and their best customer yesterday were each sentenced to five years in prison by a federal judge for trafficking in deadly drugs known to abusers as "pancakes and syrup."

U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois said 113 people in Philadelphia died of overdoses from the sedative Glutethimide combined with codeine-based cough syrup during the 30-month period when the three defendants trafficked in the drugs.

"The crime is such that prison is absolutely necessary," the judge said.

Richard P. Markowitz, 51, the former owner of the Falls Medical Center Pharmacy at Ridge and Midvale avenues, begged for probation.

Markowitz, of Verree Road near Welsh, claimed he was forced to sell more than $700,000 worth of drugs illegally to co-defendant Herman Baskerville, 35, of Hansberry Street near Wayne Avenue.

The transactions occurred between January 1985 and July 1987, when the U.S.

Drug Enforcement Administration put them out of business.

Markowitz said Baskerville threatened to kill him if he refused to supply the ingredients for "pancakes and syrup" and other concoctions called ''fours and dors" and "sets" or "mix," according to court records.

But Baskerville disputed the claim, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joan L. Markman, the case prosecutor. Markman termed "incredible" Markowitz's story of coercion.

"Markowitz was certainly willing enough to continue his relationship with Baskerville for over 2 1/2 years," she wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

The pharmacist, Marvin Benoff, 59, of Kent Lane near Bridle Road, insisted that he cooperated in the sale of drugs to Baskerville only because Markowitz threatened to fire him if he refused.

Markman said Benoff, however, had been caught "selling the same stuff" in the early 1980s at another city pharmacy. He wasn't charged then because he testified against the store owner.

She also noted that Benoff had told government agents "that greed caused him, together with Markowitz, to deal drugs to Baskerville."

Benoff, too, begged for probation, after admitting making at least $75,000

from the scheme.

"They say crime doesn't pay. They're correct," Benoff remarked, glumly.

In addition to the prison terms, the judge fined Markowitz $25,000 and Benoff $10,000. All three defendants will be on probation for five years after release.

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