DEA CRACKS DOWN ON METH MANUFACTURING WITH "OPERATION SANCTIONED SINS"
The Seattle office of the Drug Enforcement Administration recently completed "Operation Sanctioned Sins" – an initiative aimed at cutting the supply of grey market pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine. By targeting five key pseudoephedrine wholesale suppliers, the initiative cut the reported sales of these pseudoephedrine tablets by 95 percent. As a result, the number of identified meth lab sites in Washington has also been reduced 68% from a high of 1,890 in 2001 to just 608 as of November 10, 2004.
Preliminary investigation revealed that five companies in Western Washington, which distribute pseudoephedrine, were responsible for 81 percent of the Suspicious Activity Reports that were filed in Washington under a new state reporting law. From July 2003 through January 2004, these five wholesalers distributed approximately 9.8 million tablets of pseudoephedrine or two-way ephedrine, which accounted for approximately 79 percent of all the wholesale distribution of these types of tablets. DEA lab experts and chemists have determined that if these chemicals were used to manufacture methamphetamine, 9.8 million pseudoephedrine tablets would have the capacity to yield approximately 1,225 pounds of methamphetamine.
Special Agents and Diversion Investigators with DEA Seattle worked in conjunction with the United States Attorney's Office, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy and Pierce Country Sheriff's Office to gather evidence establishing that a significant portion of the wholesalers' pseudoephedrine was being diverted for use in methamphetamine labs. Agents identified many small retail stores, often in rural areas, selling unreasonably large quantities of pseudoephedrine. Frequently they sold more than large chain drug stores in urban areas. When confronted with the facts of how their product was being used, all five wholesale distributors agreed to voluntarily surrender their federal license to distribute List I chemicals. List I chemicals are all precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Since June 2004, the month these businesses gave up distributing List I chemicals, reported sales of pseudoephedrine and two-way ephedrine tablets plummeted 95 percent, from an all time monthly high of two million tablets a month in August 2003 to less than 42,000 tablets a month in June of 2004.
Meth labs pose serious dangers to the public including exposure to toxic fumes and the possibility of explosion. Cleaning up those sites is expensive: according to the Washington State Department of Ecology and ecological cleanup companies contracted by DEA, the average cost of a lab or lab dumpsite cleanup is estimated to cost between $1,500 and $3,000. The success of Operation Sanctioned Sins translates into about a $2.9 million dollar savings to the taxpayers in clean-up costs for meth labs.
Beyond the dollars saved, the reduction in meth production makes our communities safer. DEA Special Agent in Charge, Rodney G. Benson, points out that "the results of Operation Sanctioned Sins on illicit methamphetamine production in Washington State are sure to have a positive impact on our communities for years to come. DEA is committed to working with all state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as the United States Attorney's Office, to target those individuals manufacturing methamphetamine by stemming their supply of illicit chemicals no matter the source."
Operation Sanctioned Sins was an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, providing supplemental federal funding to the federal and state agencies involved. Doug Whalley heads the Criminal Enterprises Unit of the United States Attorney's Office and directs the OCDETF initiatives. For additional information contact Jeffrey Eig, Public Information Officer for DEA at (206)553-1411 or Emily Langlie, Public Information Officer for the United States Attorney's office at (206)553-4110.