Officers from 30 law enforcement agencies across Virginia, Texas and North Carolina indicted 39 people on 106 charges and seized enough fentanyl to kill 14 million people in a massive three-day operation.
Of the 39 indictments, four suspects are on the run and 35 have been arrested “for their respective roles in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cocaine base in Hampton Roads” between North Carolina and Virginia since 2016, according to a Thursday statement from the Justice Department.
Law enforcement officers in Virginia have seized enough fentanyl to kill 14 million people, busting a massive three-state drug ring as part of “Operation Cookout.” https://t.co/ZilQMeTZBk
— WNDU (@WNDU) August 30, 2019
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger explained the fatality of that much fentanyl during a press conference.
“This massive interdiction of narcotics, which included enough fentanyl to kill over 14 million people, is proof positive of the power and strength of federal, state, and local law enforcement collaboration,” Terwilliger said, according to the DOJ statement.
“The 39 charged defendants are just that — charged — and remain innocent unless and until proven otherwise. This operation, through its seizure of scores of kilograms of illicit narcotics, saved lives in the Eastern District and elsewhere,” he added.
“This opioid crisis is not an issue that is happening someplace else, or to someone else. It’s happening right here in Norfolk,” Terwilliger said before later adding that most fentanyl comes from Chinese labs. The fentanyl he and other law enforcement officials seized in Operation Cookout were ordered from Shanghai and delivered to Virginia through the mail, according to CBS.
#BREAKING U.S. Attorneys office announced a 106 count indictment against 39 defendants in a large scale drug operation.
— Steven Graves 13News Now (@13StevenGraves) August 29, 2019
Investigators also discovered that the suspects used more than 90 prepaid cell-phones, Facebook, FaceTime and WhatsApp to communicate with one another. (RELATED: Arizona Pair Caught With Enough Fentanyl ‘To Kill Thousands,’ Says US Attorney)
Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Norfolk, Virginia, Michael K. Lamonea said, “The narcotics organization identified by our team reached far and wide, spanning state lines and crossing all the way to and from our southern border,” according to the DOJ statement.
“This indictment, and the 106 counts within, demonstrates clearly that the dangerous and illegal smuggling operations from the border limitlessly stretch into the United States and reach directly into our neighborhoods and communities,” he continued.
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