To their neighbors and customers in East Mount Airy, Liberty Pharmacy owner Felix Enogwe and his employee, Ebere Ukaegbo, were friendly Nigerian nationals who handed over medicine with a smile.
But to narcotics cops, the two men were criminals who abused their pharmaceutical jobs and sold Xanex, codeine and Percocet to patrons without prescriptions.
After an investigation in which undercover officers posed as drug-hungry customers, police arrested Enogwe, 53, of Greenbriar Road near Old York Road in Elkins Park, and Ukaegbo, 48, of Mayland Street near Woolston Avenue.
Cops said the pair were selling the street favorite - "pancakes & syrup" [Xanex and cough syrup] - for about $50 per dose at the pharmacy on Washington Lane near Forrest Avenue.
Such a case is particularly troublesome, said Narcotics Capt. Chris Werner, because it "erodes public confidence with pharmacists."
He said $300,000 worth of prescription drugs were confiscated.
Werner credited Sgt. Joe McCloskey and Officer Thomas Liciardello for cracking the case.
The two suspects were charged with drug possession with intent to deliver and related offenses. Bail was set at $250,000 for both, but Enogwe's bail was reduced to $50,000, according to court records.
Ukaegbo is behind bars at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, Ukaegbo family members said. They said Enogwe was able post bail and was back home.
Ukaegbo's father-in-law, William Murphey, said Ukaegbo is too poor to post bail and cannot afford an attorney.
"He had no money," said Murphey, a retired city corrections officer. "He wouldn't have lived in my house without me knowing" about any extra cash.
Murphey said Ukaegbo moved from Nigeria to Philadelphia two years ago, after a friend sponsored him for his visa. Ukaegbo then met and married Murphey's daughter, moved into Murphey's East Mount Airy rowhouse, and was saving money to study nursing at Community College of Philadelphia.
But Ukaegbo's American dream has now disintegrated because of what Murphey called a "mix-up."
"I'm sure he was working there and just got swept up in the drama. He would ask me all the time, 'Why do people come in all the time for pain killers?' " Murphey said.
"He doesn't understand" the American drug culture," he said.
Murphey also questioned why Ukaegbo's boss put up money to bail himself out of jail but wouldn't help his own employee.
"They called each other brothers," Murphey said.
No one answered the front door of Enogwe's quaint suburban home yesterday evening.
The shrubs surrounding his white home - complete with black window shutters - were perfectly manicured and the sloped driveway wound down to the spotless street. One neighbor said that Enogwe had remolded the interior of the home and put in a gourmet kitchen.
That neighbor, a 79-year-old man who didn't want his name used, said Enogwe had lived in the neighborhood for about four years, was married with children, and was proud of his Philadelphia pharmacy.
Some who worked near the pharmacy said Enogwe was a popular business owner on the strip.
William Shelton, 84, an employee of Blue Lagoon coin laundry next door to the Liberty, said Enogwe would pay him $50 per week just to empty his trash.