Law enforcement officials seize enough fentanyl to kill over 14 million people in massive sting

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More than 120 law enforcement officers from 30 different agencies in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas arrested dozens of people involved in an alleged drug trafficking ring and seized enough fentanyl to kill more than 14 million people in a sting called Operation Cookout.

The operation names 39 defendants in a conspiracy to possess large amounts of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and cocaine base. Officers seized 30 kilograms of fentanyl, 30 kilograms of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine, over $700,000 in cash and two-dozen firearms, according to a Thursday statement from the Justice Department. 

Thirty-five of the defendants were arrested. 

{mosads} “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,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in the statement.   

The defendants allegedly purchased and received narcotics from Mexico, California and New York, and they would arrange for the drugs to be transported throughout Virginia, including Newport News, Hampton, Suffolk, Carrolton, Yorktown, Lawrenceville, South Hill, and Richmond.

The network allegedly used 94 different telecommunication devices, including pre-paid cell phones, Facebook, and encrypted communications apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp to negotiate prices and to arrange locations to sell the drugs.  

The sting resulted in a 106-count indictment, which was unsealed Thursday afternoon, with the trafficking conspiracy that allegedly began in March 2016. The network of people arrested in the sting are accused of filling many roles, including “supplier, packager, transporter, financier, distributor, and facilitator,” the Justice Department said in the statement.

“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,” Michael Lamonea, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Norfolk, said in the 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.”

Tags drug trafficking Opioid crisis

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