Author Topic: Feds focus on dark web to disrupt fentanyl trafficking in Northeast Ohio  (Read 184 times)

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May 23. 2018

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman says opiate deaths in Northeast Ohio slowing

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Federal law enforcement agencies in Cleveland have begun to focus their efforts on tackling drug distribution networks involving the dark web, along with a more focused approach at targeting dealers whose drugs kill multiple customers.

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said tackling the opioid crisis in Northeast Ohio requires a multi-pronged approach involving hospitals and public health agencies.

Herdman said the approach is showing its first signs of working. Drops in deadly overdoses were reported in Cuyahoga, Trumbull and Summit counties since at least the beginning of 2018.

Have opioid deaths in Northeast Ohio finally crested ? (take the source link to the video)

The opioid epidemic in Northeast Ohio has shown signs of slowing down after five months of decreasing overdoses and deaths.

Law enforcement honed in on the roots of the opiate crisis by focusing on intercepting fentanyl shipments from overseas that are ordered online and shipped to Cleveland through the mail or commercial carriers, Herdman said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency set up a new opiate-death investigation squad that focuses on conducting investigations into dealers whose drugs kill customers. It's one of only a handful of such squads in cities across the country.

Herdman said agents are getting better at tackling cases that involve overseas distribution of fentanyl via the dark web, which allows dealers to buy the drugs online, something they never had to do before fentanyl hit the streets in Cleveland sometime in late 2014.

He pointed to recent seizure of 280 grams of fentanyl in Toledo, 100 grams of carfentanil and 44 pounds of heroin in Akron and another seizure of 250 grams of carfentanil in Euclid as successes federal agents had in keeping some of the deadlier drugs out of user's hands.

"We have definitely seen an uptick in cases that are brought by agencies that are targeting fentanyl distribution networks," Herdman said. "We've been increasingly successful, in some ways in a dramatic way, on identifying those networks and disrupting them. Maybe there was a learning curve associated with that. We're not dealing with the same distribution networks we were dealing with 10 years ago." 

He also said that with the public-awareness push regarding the crisis, users are starting to use the drugs in groups with naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote, at hand in case someone uses a drug with a higher amount of fentanyl or carfentail, which can be deadly with just a little mixed in with heroin or cocaine. Herdman said they've only seen a few indications of these incidents.

"Most people who are addicted are aware that what they're putting into their body is probably not heroin. It's fentanyl, or carfentanil or it's some other fentanyl analog and that they have to take precautions when using it, whether they use in a group or sequentially in a group, whatever it is," Herdman said. "I think that contributes too. Anyone who buys anything has to assume it has fentanyl in it. Cocaine, pills, whatever, it not just can kill you, it will kill you."

Herdman's office, along with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley, have focused on prosecuting more drug dealers in cases where users have died. The two offices work together on the cases and decide which office will be able to get more prison time for the dealers under Ohio and federal laws.

Dealers face a minimum of 20 years in prison under federal law if prosecutors can link their drugs to someone's death, unless they strike plea agreements. That approach has been criticized by advocates who say the lines are often blurry between dealers who sell deadly drugs and users who sometimes procure drugs for friends. Herdman said his office focuses on dealers whose drugs have caused several overdoses.

Herdman said he expects to have a double-digit increase in opiate-death prosecutions in 2018.

"Law enforcement has adjusted and adapted very flexibly in the wake of this crisis," Herdman said. "We're just starting to see the impact in the number of deaths."
« Last Edit: June 02, 2018, 10:22:27 AM by Chip »
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