One year ago, the Justice Department announced the formation of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S.), a program designed to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids in high impact areas as well as identifying wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers.
Over the past year, 10 districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country, each targeted a county where they focused on prosecuting every readily available case involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of the drug quantity. These districts worked with DEA Special Operations Division to track and coordinate these street-level cases and also received additional assistance from the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF).
“Our attorneys and law enforcement agents have spent the past year working tirelessly to disrupt the networks engaged in the trafficking of synthetic opioids. Today we are proud to share their successes in 10 of the districts most affected by this scourge,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said. “The Department of Justice’s efforts have resulted in countless successes from California to Maine. We have successfully sought enhanced sentences in cases that resulted in deadly overdoses, and we have boosted cooperation among the partners involved. There remains much work to be done, but Operation S.O.S. marks a crucial turning point in the fight against synthetic opioids.”
The 10 participating districts and some of their successes are listed below:
- The Eastern District of California has reported a total of 27 Operation S.O.S. investigations in which the narcotics seized have included kilogram-quantities of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.
- The Eastern District of Kentucky has reported 15 investigations with six to eight new investigations being added monthly and has charged nine sentence-enhanced “death resulting” cases.
- The District of Maine has an additional 30 cases as a result of Operation S.O.S.
- The District of New Hampshire has had 41 cases through Operation S.O.S. that have resulted in indictments with fentanyl being distributed in 39 of those cases amongst other drugs.
- The Northern District of Ohio has indicted 71 defendants under Operation S.O.S., and has seen a 12 percent decrease in overdose deaths from the previous year.
- The Southern District of Ohio has 58 Operation S.O.S. investigations of the 58 investigations, 52 involve fentanyl distribution.
- The Western District of Pennsylvania noticed the decline in overdose deaths in the county they originally had targeted. This decline was attributed to a large number of people moving out of the targeted county to attempt to circumvent the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s efforts. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has refocused their resources to target the county where fatal overdoses have increased the most.
- The Eastern District of Tennessee has reported seven Operation S.O.S. cases involving 39 defendants, with a number of those including “death resulting” cases.
- The Northern District of West Virginia has 22 Operation S.O.S. cases with one “death resulting” prosecution. One of these investigations resulted in eight separate cases involving 35 defendants.
- The Southern District of West Virginia has 62 cases pending as a result of Operation S.O.S. with 13 convictions. Just recently, a 1.2 kilogram mixture of fentanyl and heroin was seized from a defendant in one of those cases.
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