USA Updates Feds seize 478,000 counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills, charge 26 with drug trafficking and other crimes
More than two dozen people who were allegedly part of a drug smuggling ring stretching from Sinaloa, Mexico, into southern California, were charged with various offenses after a two-year investigation by the DEA and other agencies, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California announced Tuesday.
Nearly half a million counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl were seized as a part of the operation, as well as about 112 pounds of methamphetamine, 22 pounds of cocaine, 10 pounds of powder fentanyl, 9 pounds of heroin, and about $230,000 in assets.
The 26 suspects, 17 of which have been arrested, are facing various charges, including international drug smuggling, drug trafficking, and conspiracy.
Four of the defendants are Mexican nationals, while the other 22 live in southern California. Their alleged positions in the drug trafficking operation ranged from the mules who transported the drugs, to the dealers in the US, to the people responsible for smuggling the proceeds back across the border to Mexico.
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“Drug cartels, such as the Sinaloa cartel, are driving addiction and overdose deaths in the United States,” DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly S. Howe said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This extensive investigation demonstrates the DEA’s resolve to hold drug dealers accountable for their destruction and to prevent massive amounts of fentanyl pills and other addictive drugs from being sold to our citizens.”
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Fentanyl, a dangerous drug up to 100 times stronger than morphine, is driving the latest phase of America’s opioid crisis.
It was detected in about 75% of the record 107,622 fatal drug overdoses in the US last year, according to the CDC.