Fentanyl Drug Bust
Roughly one million illicit fentanyl-laced pills were seized by the DEA in a historic drug bust earlier this month.
The operation was executed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Los Angeles Field Division High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Group 48, in conjunction with the DEA New York Division Tactical Diversion Squad and Hawthorne Police Department. Investigations began back in May after suspicions arose regarding a Los Angeles-based drug trafficking organization that seemed to have ties to the infamous Mexican Sinaloa Cartel – widely believed to be the most powerful criminal drug trafficking organization in the Western Hemisphere.
Upon investigation, the DEA successfully identified various Southern California narcotics couriers and stash house managers who were distributing narcotics to other local drug dealers. Los Angeles and its environs have long served as a major drug distribution hub due to both its proximity to the southwestern U.S.-Mexican border, and its efficient and well-developed transportation network. Bulk narcotic shipments are smuggled through the border into LA, stored in local warehouses, storage units or homes, broken down into smaller quantities – and then distributed to local dealers, or transported to other states within the U.S.
A federal search warrant was issued on July 5th, 2022, for an Inglewood, California residence believed to be a large drug distribution point. The search resulted in the seizure of approximately 1 million fentanyl- laced pills made to look like the legitimate prescription medications. The contraband was destined for retail distribution, with an estimated street value of 15 to 20 million dollars.
Fentanyl is an incredibly potent analgesic legally prescribed to treat severe or chronic pain, but widely diverted and recreated for misuse and abuse. According to the DEA, “Criminal drug cartels in Mexico are mass-producing illicit fentanyl and fake pills pressed with fentanyl in filthy, clandestine, unregulated labs. These fake pills are designed to look like real prescription pills right down to the size, shape, color, and stamping.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 107,000 people have died in the U.S. of drug overdose or poisoning – a frightening and ever-increasing number.
“This massive seizure disrupted the flow of dangerous amounts of fentanyl into our streets and undoubtedly saved many lives,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Bill Bodner told the press. “The deceptive marketing, coupled with the ease of accessibility, makes these small and seemingly innocuous a significant threat to the health and safety of all our communities. A staggering number of teens and young adults are unaware that they are ingesting fentanyl in these fake pills and are being poisoned.”
The DEA stated that the investigation into this drug trafficking organization is still ongoing.
Over 3 million fentanyl pills were seized by the LA offices of the DEA in 2021 – nearly a three-fold increase from 2020. 1.5 million fentanyl pills were seized by the DEA of LA in the first four months of 2022 alone – a 64% increase from the same time period last year.
Illicit fentanyl is a growing crisis in communities across the U.S., despite concerted efforts to increase awareness, enforcement, and treatment programs. The DEA issued an impassioned warning and reminder to the public that the any pills purchased outside of a licensed pharmacy are completely illegal, dangerous, and possibly lethal. The only safe medications are those prescribed by a licensed, accredited medical professional, and dispensed by a legitimate pharmacist.
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