Authorities charged 12 drug traffickers, including an auxiliary police officer, in Ohio for allegedly distributing narcotics and laundering money for the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.
Federal officials in Middletown, Ohio, Thursday unsealed the indictment, which accuses the drug ring members of distributing heroin and fentanyl shipped from the Mexican cartel throughout the region, laundering the proceeds, and funneling cash back to Sinaloa cartel members, Cincinnati.com reported.
Former Seven Mile Police Department Auxiliary Officer Christopher Watkins, 23, is accused in the indictment of acting as a drug mule on at least one occasion: traveling to Ontario, Calif., to pick up a narcotics shipment in exchange for $1,000 in cash. Authorities allege Watkins used his experience to help the operation avoid law enforcement.
The 12 individuals named in the indictment Thursday are charged with distributing 400 grams of a substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl. Three Mexican nationals named in the indictment remain at large. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, is responsible for fueling the current overdose crisis in the U.S.
“Mexican cartel leaders who supply fentanyl and other opioids and other drugs to drug dealers here in the Southern District of Ohio should know they are not safe from our law enforcement efforts,” Southern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman said, according to Cincinnati.com. “They’re in our sights. We will investigate them; we will charge them, and we will bring them to justice. We’re going to increase the cost of doing drug trafficking business for the cartels in Mexico.”
Another 40 individuals from California, Washington, Ohio, Kentucky and Kansas also face charges linked to their involvement with the drug ring.
Fentanyl overtook heroin as the U.S.’s deadliest substance in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse data released Sept. 7 paints a grim outlook for the future of the drug crisis ravaging American communities.
America’s addiction epidemic will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017, the study predicts. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row drug deaths surpass the Vietnam War’s U.S. casualties.
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