Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge: First year successes

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CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — 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.

The Southern District of West Virginia was one of the 10 districts comprising Operation S.O.S. The Southern District became a national leader in the fight against these synthetic drugs.

In the Southern District, in a single year, 62 cases are pending as a result of Operation S.O.S. with 13 convictions. Most recently, a 1.2 kilogram mixture of fentanyl and heroin was seized from a defendant in one of those cases, enough fentanyl to kill more than 600,000 people. Those figures do not include the additional fentanyl taken off the street that could have killed more than 1.6 million people last year.

“It’s a remarkable record.  Over the past year, we have worked with our law enforcement partners to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids that have ravaged my District and with it destruction, chaos and death.  We are so pleased to have remarkable partnerships with our Operation SOS teams  – the DEA and OCDETF – as we tackle this crisis on behalf of the people of West Virginia.  I want to thank Attorney General Barr, the Department of Justice, and all of our law enforcement partners for allowing us to be a part of this critical operation and for committing the resources to allow us to make such critical progress,” U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said.

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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