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Drug Agents Dismantle Heroin Ring, Seize Enough Fentanyl To Kill A Quarter Million Americans

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Federal officials recently scored a major victory against narcotics traffickers during an investigation of a distribution network, confiscating enough fentanyl to kill a quarter million Americans.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, serving the Southern District of West Virginia, announced charges against nearly 100 individuals involved in a massive drug trafficking ring operating in West Virginia and Michigan. The investigation, dubbed Operation Saigon Sunset, targeted the multi-state Peterson Drug Trafficking Organization and involved more than 200 law enforcement officers from federal, state and local levels, reports WOWK.

“Today’s actions have removed from our streets enough fentanyl to kill more than 250,000 people and massive amounts of other drugs that would have wreaked havoc and misery on our good citizens,” Stuart said Tuesday. “Today is a turning point for the City of Huntington and in the war against the opiate nightmare.”

Officials in the Southern District of West Virginia indicted 15 individuals Tuesday with conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl. Authorities also indicted 13 individuals in the Southern District of West Virginia on firearms and narcotics charges Tuesday. Another 15 people involved with the Peterson Drug Trafficking Organization were indicted on state charges Tuesday at Cabell County Circuit Court in West Virginia.

An additional 48 individuals linked to the trafficking network are being targeted for arrest under various narcotics, firearms and violent crime charges.

“Our great country has never seen drug deaths like we’re seeing today,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions Tuesday. “Under President Trump’s strong leadership, the Department of Justice has taken historic new actions to put drug traffickers in jail and keep dangerous drugs out of the wrong hands. Today’s charges against at least 90 defendants will help make the people of West Virginia and Michigan safer from the threat of dangerous drugs—and they bring us one step closer to ending the opioid epidemic.”

Large quantities of narcotics continue to infiltrate the U.S. due to the relentless efforts of traffickers, however, the Department of Justice under Sessions is gaining ground against drug movers taking advantage of America’s opioid scourge.

Federal authorities recently charged 75 people for money laundering and narcotics trafficking, including fentanyl, linked to the Sinaloa Cartel.

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed 40 indictments March 8 in a San Diego federal court, detailing how a network of individuals conspired to launder tens of millions of dollars in drug cash between 2015 and 2018. Another 35 people were charged over the course of the DOJ’s multi-year investigation into the organization’s criminal activity.

The conspirators used a network of “funnel” bank accounts to allow money movers to deposit bulk quantities of cash into domestic bank accounts. The funds would be wire-transferred to bank accounts linked to fake businesses in Mexico the cartel controlled. Bulk amounts of cash were also smuggled in vehicle compartments, duffel bags and shoeboxes.

Undercover FBI agents and the local drug task force infiltrated the money laundering organization and gained its leaders’ trust. They eventually let the agents act as money movers. The agents picked up bulk shipments of cash in regions throughout the U.S. over the course of a two-year investigation.

Amid the multi-year investigation, authorities confiscated $6 million in drug money, 209 pounds of methamphetamine, 138 pounds of heroin, 22 pounds of fentanyl, 202 pounds of cocaine, 555 pounds of marijuana and 20 firearms.

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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