Feds announce seizure of enough fentanyl to kill millions

A massive multi-state investigation involving more than two dozen law enforcement agencies led to the seizure of enough fentanyl to kill more than 14 million people from a drug trafficking ring operating out of Virginia, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

During the raids, dubbed "Operation Cookout," officials seized 30 kilograms each of fentanyl and heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine, 24 firearms, and over $700,000 in cash.

The more than 30 agencies involved worked three days to arrest 35 of 39 defendants in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas for their alleged roles in the distribution operation based in Hampton Roads, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said that amount of fentanyl alone is enough to kill 14 million people.

"This operation, through its seizure of scores of kilograms of illicit narcotics, saved lives in the Eastern District and elsewhere," Terwilliger said.

A 106-count indictment, unsealed Thursday, charges the defendants with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, heroin, cocaine base, and fentanyl; conspiracy to launder money; felon in possession of a firearm; maintaining a drug-involved premises; use of a communication facility in furtherance of drug trafficking; interstate travel in aid of racketeering enterprises; and illegal re-entry by a previously deported or removed alien.

The drug trafficking conspiracy began in 2016, according to the indictment. The defendants are accused of buying the drugs from Mexico, California, and New York then moving them around Virginia using "hidden traps" in various vehicles, according to prosecutors. They carried out and planned for drug deals in various locations throughout Hampton Roads, including houses, parking lots and businesses.

“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," said Norfolk's Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations Michael K. Lamonea.

Pharmaceutical fentanyl is used to treat severe pain. While the opioid is highly-addictive, most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose, and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally-made fentanyl, which is often mixed with heroin, cocaine or both, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids jumped by about 47 percent in the U.S. between 2016 and 2017, according to the CDC. About 28,400 died that year from overdoses involving synthetic opioids.

24 PHOTOS
Boston-area paramedics on the frontline of US opioid crisis
See Gallery
Boston-area paramedics on the frontline of US opioid crisis
Cataldo Ambulance medics and other first responders revive a 32-year-old man who was found unresponsive and not breathing after an opioid overdose on a sidewalk in the Boston suburb of Everett, Massachusetts, U.S., August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A full syringe, empty syringe and spoon sit on the roof of the car in which a man in his 20's overdosed on an opioid in the Boston suburb of Lynn, Massachusetts, U.S. August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Cataldo Ambulance medics and other first responders revive a 32-year-old man who was found unresponsive and not breathing after an opioid overdose on a sidewalk in the Boston suburb of Everett, Massachusetts, U.S., August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Cataldo Ambulance medics and EMTs, along with firefighters, revive a man in his 40's who was found unresponsive after overdosing on an opioid in the Boston suburb of Salem, Massachusetts, U.S., August 9, 2017. The victim received a total of 12mg of naloxone. Nurses at the hospital recognised the man, saying he was brought in the day before after overdosing. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Cataldo Ambulance medic Jenn Mercouris delivers naloxone through an IV in the arm of a 54-year-old man who was found unresponsive and not breathing after overdosing on opioids in a bedroom in a house in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, U.S., November 9, 2017. The man was revived with 8 mg of naloxone. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
A bystander holds open the door as Cataldo Ambulance medic Rick Yunker checks on a 34-year-old man who reportedly overdosed on an opioid in the bathroom of a donut shop in the Boston suburb of Everett, Massachusetts, U.S., October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A 41-year-old man found unconscious after overdosing on opioids in the driver's seat of a car, with the engine running and the transmission in drive, puts his hands over his head in the back of a Cataldo Ambulance at a gas station in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, December 2, 2017. A used syringe was found in the car with the victim, who was revived with 10mg of naloxone. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Cataldo Ambulance medics take away on a stretcher a man in his 40's who was found unresponsive after overdosing on an opioid in the Boston suburb of Salem, Massachusetts, U.S., August 9, 2017. The victim received a total of 12mg of naloxone. Nurses at the hospital recognised the man, saying he was brought in the day before after overdosing. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Cataldo Ambulance medic Dave Franklin administers naloxone to a 32-year-old man who was found unresponsive and not breathing in the front seat of a car in the Boston suburb of Chelsea, Massachusetts, U.S., November 16, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
Cataldo Ambulance medics Timothy Stahl (L) and Derek Travers (R), with the help of a firefighter, tend to a 38-year-old man who was found unresponsive after an opioid overdose in the parking lot of a Walgreens drug store in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, U.S., October 19, 2017. The man was revived with 4mg of naloxone. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
Cataldo Ambulance medics Rick Yunker (L), Derek Travers (C) and Timothy Stahl revive a 38-year-old man who was found unresponsive after an opioid overdose in the parking lot of a Walgreens drug store in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, U.S., October 19, 2017. The man was revived with 4mg of naloxone. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Cataldo Ambulance medics and firefighters revive a 40-year-old woman who was found unresponsive in a grocery store bathroom after overdosing on opioids in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, U.S., November 15, 2017. After medics revived the woman with 10mg of naloxone on the floor of the bathroom, police discovered she had been arrested in the past for charges including assault and battery. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
Cataldo Ambulance medics Ricky Cormio (L) and Luke Magnant take a 40-year-old woman out of a grocery store where she was found unresponsive in the store's bathroom after overdosing on opioids in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, U.S., November 15, 2017. After medics revived the woman with 10mg of naloxone on the floor of the bathroom, police found out she had been arrested in the past for charges including assault and battery. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A Cataldo Ambulance medic holds used doses of naloxone after medics revived a man in his 40's who was found unresponsive from an opioid overdose in the Boston suburb of Salem, Massachusetts, U.S., August 9, 2017. The victim received a total of 12mg of naloxone. Nurses at the hospital recognised the man, saying he was brought in the day before after overdosing. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
Cataldo Ambulance EMT Matt Tavalone takes notes as a 42-year-old female kicks the roof of the ambulance after she was revived with 8mg of Narcan given to her by a housemate before EMTs arrived on the scene in the Boston suburb of Lynn, Massachusetts, U.S., August 14, 2017. The woman who overdosed on an opioid showed signs of withdrawal caused by the Narcan. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
Cataldo Ambulance medic Paula Gageiro drives to a reported drug overdose in Revere, Massachusetts, U.S., October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
Cataldo Ambulance third rider Wayne Taft arrives at the hospital with a 61-year-old man who was found unresponsive in the doorway of an apartment building after an opioid overdose in the Boston suburb of Somerville, Massachusetts, U.S., August 28, 2017. When the medics returned to the hospital hours later with an unrelated patient, they were told the man who overdosed had still not fully woken up. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
Cataldo Ambulance medics John Gardner (L) and David Farmer care for a man in his 40's who was found unresponsive after overdosing on an opioid in the Boston suburb of Salem, Massachusetts, U.S., August 9, 2017. The victim received a total of 12mg of naloxone. Nurses at the hospital recognised the man, saying he was brought in the day before after overdosing. REUTERS/Brian Snyder 
Bystanders watch as Cataldo Ambulance medics take a man in his 40's, who was found unresponsive after overdosing on an opioid, to an ambulance in the Boston suburb of Salem, Massachusetts, U.S., August 9, 2017. The victim received a total of 12mg of naloxone. Nurses at the hospital recognised the man, saying he was brought in the day before after overdosing. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Cataldo Ambulance medics Paula Gageiro (L) and Al Driscoll (R) take a man in his mid-40's, who was found unresponsive and not breathing in his car after overdosing on opioids, to an ambulance in the Boston suburb of Revere, Massachusetts, U.S., November 8, 2017. The man showed signs of withdrawal in the ambulance after being revived with 8 mg of naloxone. In response to repeated questions from the patient about what had happened, Gageiro replied, "You made a bad decision, you were dead." REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A woman identified as the victim's wife watches from the front porch as Cataldo Ambulance medics take a 54-year-old man to the ambulance. He was found unresponsive and not breathing after overdosing on opioids in a house in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, U.S., November 9, 2017. The man was revived with 8 mg of naloxone. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A used syringe sits on the roof of the car where a 41-year-old man was found unconscious after overdosing on opioids in the driver's seat of the car, with the engine running and the transmission in drive, at a gas station in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, December 2, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A 41-year-old man slumps over unconscious after overdosing on opioids in the driver's seat of a car, with the engine running and the transmission in drive, at a gas station in the Boston suburb of Malden, Massachusetts, December 2, 2017. A used syringe was found in the car with the victim, who was revived by Cataldo Ambulance medics and EMTs with 10mg of naloxone. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A Cataldo Ambulance medic escorts a 39-year-old woman to an ambulance after she was revived from an opioid overdose in a home in the Boston suburb of Salem, Massachusetts, U.S., August 15, 2017. The woman was revived with 4mg of naloxone. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.