A problem of ‘accessibility and deception’
Law enforcement officials this week announced a dozen new federal cases targeting fentanyl dealers who–in all but one case–allegedly sold fentanyl and fake pills containing fentanyl that directly resulted in the death of at least one victim.
The 12th case charges a person who allegedly distributed fentanyl to teenage girls who suffered overdoses and required hospitalization, said Thom Mrozek of the United States Attorney's Office.
Authorities also announced that a man who sold fentanyl through several dark web marketplaces has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges, admitting that his products caused the death of three individuals and that he sold fentanyl-laced pills to two others who died soon afterward.
The announcements were made at a Tuesday morning news conference at the U.S. Attorney's Office in downtown Los Angeles, where federal and local law enforcement leaders discussed their ongoing efforts to combat the proliferation of the deadly drug.
“We are fully committed to combating the fentanyl crisis, which is wreaking so much destruction across this nation,'' U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said.
“Those who traffic in fentanyl should be on notice that our office will hold you accountable and the consequences will be severe. The deadly risks of fentanyl are well known. The cases announced today charge drug dealers who have caused the death or injury of others, and thereby prioritized greed over human life,'' Estrada continued. “These cases that focus on fentanyl distribution resulting in death are the result of an unprecedented level of cooperation between federal agents and local authorities throughout our district.''
DEA Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner said the “two main drivers'' causing fentanyl-related deaths are “accessibility and deception.''
“Social media platforms have made fentanyl widely available to anyone with a smartphone and made every neighborhood an open-air drug market,'' Bodner said.
“The deceptive marketing tactics used by the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels have created a vast pool of victims who unknowingly ingested fentanyl and did not make a choice to be harmed or die,'' Bodner said.
The 12 new cases resulted from the ongoing efforts of the Overdose Justice Task Force, a DEA-led project designed to investigate fatal fentanyl poisonings and identify the individuals who provided the fentanyl that directly caused the deaths.
Under the Overdose Justice program for the DEA's Los Angeles Field Division, DEA agents established collaborative relationships with local law enforcement agencies across the seven counties that make up the Central District of California.