U.S. Justice Department Cracks Down on Opioid Trafficking

U.S. Justice Department Cracks Down on Opioid Trafficking

Drug traffickers, Ohio doctors’ offices, online fentanyl black markets, and illegal drugmakers in China, were the targets of a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) crackdown during July and August, 2018.

Speaking at a news conference in Cleveland, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said,

“Today’s announcements are a warning to every trafficker, every crooked doctor or pharmacist, and every drug company, every chairman and foreign national and company that puts greed before the lives and health of the American people.”

The recent Ohio operation follows on the heels of a massive health care fraud investigation earlier this year. That operation led to the arrests of 601 suspects for illegal drug trafficking and other crimes. The suspects included 162 doctors and others for illegally prescribing and distributing prescription opioid painkillers.

According to the Associated Press, the latest actions in Ohio included,

“the country's first-ever civil injunction that has barred two Ohio doctors from prescribing drugs; the indictment of two Chinese nationals accused of shipping powerful synthetic opioids around the globe; and a recent operation to shut down the country's biggest "dark net" distributor of drugs.”

‘A form of warfare’

And according to the New York Times, President Trump recently asked Sessions to sue drug companies that supplied unreasonable amounts of prescription opioids, and to,

“investigate opioid trafficking from China and Mexico, calling the flood of drugs from those countries ‘almost a form of warfare.’”

Sessions said that civil injunctions have been filed against two doctors based out of northern Ohio for illegally prescribing opioids. One was also accused of Medicare fraud, and was also accused of receiving $175,000 in payola, or kickbacks, from a liquid fentanyl manufacturer whose product is used in cancer patient treatments. The other doctor advertised his services at fitness centers, which led to his arrest after selling opioids and steroids directly to undercover agents.

The Attorney General also announced a huge, 43-count indictment filed against the leaders of the Zheng drug trafficking organization, in Shanghai, China. Two men, a father and son, are accused of conspiring to manufacture and ship 250 types of fentanyl and other synthetic narcotics.

Fentanyl, heroin and fake drugs

The Chinese drug traffickers sold fentanyl and heroin, but also fake drugs, including counterfeit Adderall and “cancer medication” that was actually bath salts. The investigation also revealed that the Chinese conspirators hid behind shell companies while distributing drugs to 25 countries, including 37 U.S. states.

Another conspirator, charged with being the American re-shipper for the Chinese, pleaded guilty after he was arrested trying to leave the country.

Two overdose deaths in Akron, Ohio, have been traced directly back to the drugs from China.

Another undercover investigation led to the arrest of an Ohio couple, charged with selling fentanyl and other drugs on the so-called “dark web,” the secretive online marketplace for drugs, guns and other illicit goods.

Sessions said that when they were arrested last April, they were the,

“most prolific fentanyl vendors in the United States on the dark web.”

Earlier this year, US attorney’s offices designated “opioid coordinators” in each state, and 48 state attorneys general began coordinating with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to combat the opioid epidemic.

To date, the department has charged dozens of doctors with opioid-related crimes, and indicted nearly 7,000 people in opioid-related investigations.

Sessions has also said he will see that prosecutors prosecute every synthetic opioid case, no matter the size, in the districts with the highest overdose death rates.

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