Viral alerts warn of criminals using business cards or pieces of paper impregnated with a potent street drug called burundanga (scopolamine) to incapacitate victims before attacking them.
Description: Viral rumor
Circulating since: May 2008
Status: Mostly false (see details below)
Email contributed by Cally, Aug. 25, 2008:
Subject: BE AWARE! READ THIS GIRLS!
Share with your sisters, daughters, nieces, mothers, female friends, EVERYONE.
NEW WARNING!! Incident has been confirmed
In Katy, Tx a man came over and offered his services as a painter to a female putting gas in her car and left his card. She said no , but accepted his card out of kindness and got in the car. The man then got into a car driven by another gentleman. As the lady left the service station and saw the men following her out of the station at the same time. Almost immediately, she started to feel dizzy and could not catch her breath. She tried to open the window and realized that the odor was on her hand; the same hand which accepted the card from the gentleman at the gas station.
She then noticed the men were immediately behind her and she felt she needed to do something at that moment. She drove into the first driveway and began to honk her horn to ask for help. The men drove away but the lady still felt pretty bad for several minutes after she could finally catch her breath. Apparently there was a substance on the card and could have seriously injured her. The drug is called 'BURUNDANGA' and it is used by people who wish to incapacitate a victim in order to steal or take advantage of them.
Four times greater than date rape drug and is transferable on simple cards. So take heed and make sure you don't accept cards at any given time alone or from someone on the streets. This applies to those making house calls and slipping you a card when they offer their services.
Email contributed by Irene, May 12, 2008:
This incident has been confirmed. Ladies please be careful and share w/everyone you know!
This can happen anywhere!
And Another Warning . . . Last Wednesday, Jaime Rodriguez's neighbor was at a gas station in Katy. A man came and offered his neighbor his services as a painter and gave her a card. She took the card and got in her car.
The man got into a car driven by another person. She left the station and noticed that the men were leaving the gas station at the same time. Almost immediately, she started to feel dizzy and could not catch her breath.
She tried to open the windows and in that moment she realized that there was a strong odor from the card. She also realized that the men were following her. The neighbor went to another neighbor's house and honked on her horn to ask for help. The men left, but the victim felt bad for several minutes.
Apparently there was a substance on the card, the substance was very strong and may have seriously injured her.
Jaime checked the Internet and there is a drug called "Burundanga" that is used by some people to incapacitate a victim in order to steal or take advantage of them. Please be careful and do not accept anything from unknown people on the street.
Analysis: Is there a drug called burundanga that's sometimes used by criminals in Latin America to incapacitate their victims? Yes.
Do news and law enforcement sources confirm that burundanga is being used to commit crimes in the U.S., Canada, and other countries outside Latin America?
No, they do not.
The story above, circulating since 2008, is almost certainly a fabrication. Two details in particular betray it as such:
- The victim allegedly received a dose of the drug by simply touching a business card. (All sources agree that burundanga must be inhaled or ingested, or the subject must have prolonged topical contact with it, in order for it to have an effect.)
- The victim allegedly detected a "strong odor" coming from the drug-laced card. (All sources agree that burundanga is odorless and tasteless.)
About the March 26, 2010 incident in Houston, Texas
In March 2010, Houston resident Mary Anne Capo reported to police that a man approached her at a local gas station and handed her a church pamphlet, after which her throat and tongue began to swell "like someone was strangling me." In an interview with KIAH-TV News, Capo said she believes there was "something inside the pamphlet" that caused her to become ill and compared what happened to her to the alleged incident described above.
Could it have been a burundanga attack? It seems doubtful, given that the symptoms Capo reported (swelling of the tongue and throat, feeling of suffocation) aren't consistent with those usually attributed to burundanga (dizziness, nausea, light-headedness). Also, as discussed above, it's unlikely anyone could receive a strong enough dose of burundanga through brief contact with a piece of paper to feel any ill effects.
Could the pamphlet have contained another type of drug or chemical? Possibly, though Capo says she didn't see or smell anything unusual while handling it. We'll probably never know precisely what did happen to Mary Anne Capo that day, because she didn't undergo a medical examination and says she promptly tossed the one piece of hard evidence — the pamphlet — into the nearest trash can.
What is burundanga?
Burundanga is the street version of a pharmaceutical drug called scopolamine. It's made from the extracts of plants in the nightshade family such as henbane and jimson weed. It's a deliriant, meaning it can induce symptoms of delirium such as disorientation, loss of memory, hallucinations, and stupor.
You can see why it would be popular with criminals.
In powdered form scopolamine can be easily mixed into food or drink, or blown directly into victims' faces, forcing them to inhale it.