Over 220 Pounds of Suspected Controlled Substances Seized Including Pills Shaped to Resemble Heart Shaped Candy
Remarks as Delivered
Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced. It is nearly 50 times more potent than heroin and is a nearly invisible poison. Just two milligrams of fentanyl – the amount that could fit at the tip of a pencil – is a potentially lethal dose.
I am joined today by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.
We are here today to announce a series of actions we are taking to target the trafficking of fentanyl at every stage and in every part of the world.
But more important, we are here today to deliver a message on behalf of the United States government:
We know who is responsible for poisoning the American people with fentanyl.
We know who is responsible for shattering families and communities across the United States with drug poisonings and overdoses.
We know that behind the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans is a cartel-driven fentanyl trafficking network that spans countries and continents.
We know that this network includes the cartels' leaders, their drug traffickers, their money launderers, their clandestine lab operators, their security forces, their weapons suppliers, and their chemical suppliers.
And we know that this global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the deaths of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China.
Our agents and prosecutors are working every day to get fentanyl out of our communities and bring to justice those who put it there.
Recently, that work has included charging 23 Sinaloa Cartel members, associates, and leaders for their roles in running the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world.
And it has included the Department's first-ever charges against chemical companies based in China for trafficking fentanyl precursor chemicals directly into the United States.
Today, we are announcing several more actions we are taking across the government to disrupt every single aspect of the global fentanyl trafficking network.
First, in eight separate indictments in the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, the Justice Department charged eight companies based in China, and 12 of their executives, for crimes related to the production, distribution, and importation of fentanyl, other synthetic opioids, methamphetamines, and their precursor chemicals.
As detailed in the indictments unsealed today, the precursor chemicals used to make synthetic opioids like fentanyl are primarily manufactured and distributed by China-based chemical companies.
These companies advertise the sale of precursor chemicals online, using different websites and social media platforms.
They then ship the building blocks needed to create deadly drugs all over the world.
To evade detection by U.S. law enforcement, they use fake return addresses, include fraudulent invoices that mislabel the products, and disguise the chemicals in packaging such as dog food bags.
In just one example, one of the defendants, a pharmaceutical technology company located in China, advertised fentanyl precursor chemicals, as well as xylazine, for sale online.
Drug traffickers may combine xylazine, a horse tranquilizer also known as tranq, with drugs like fentanyl in order to enhance their effects and increase their value.
But, unlike opioids, the effects of xylazine cannot be reversed by Narcan. And people who inject drug mixtures containing xylazine can develop wounds that result in disfigurement or amputation.
As detailed in the indictment, after advertising the precursor chemicals, the pharmaceutical company then shipped them to both the United States and to Mexico, including to a drug trafficker affiliated with the Sinaloa Cartel.
In one instance, a company executive specifically asked a customer, who was asking about the purchase of fentanyl precursors, “do they need fent?” – short for fentanyl.
The executive went on to recommend a specific fentanyl precursor to the customer, saying that “all Mexico customers” buy it. The executive told the customer the company would ship the precursor under a different chemical name to ensure “safe custom clearance.”
But in fact, the purported “customer” was an undercover DEA agent.
As alleged in the indictment, the company shipped 300 grams of xylazine and 43 kilograms of fentanyl precursors to the United States, where undercover DEA agents received them.
The precursor chemicals we received from this company – in just this one case – would have been enough to manufacture more than 72 kilograms of fentanyl. That amount could be used to make more than 15 million fentanyl pills – each one potentially fatal.
As the Deputy Attorney General will highlight shortly, the cases being unsealed today are part of a whole-of-government effort to attack every aspect of the trafficking of deadly fentanyl.
That effort includes not only Justice Department prosecutors and DEA [and FBI] agents, but also our partners at the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
In a moment, Secretary Mayorkas will discuss, among other things, additional seizures of fentanyl precursor chemicals made by the Department of Homeland Security alongside its DEA counterparts.
And Deputy Secretary Adeyemo will discuss sanctions the Treasury Department is imposing today on a set of individuals and entities involved in fentanyl trafficking. That includes all of the China-based companies and individuals being charged in the Southern District of Florida today.
Tomorrow, Secretary Mayorkas, Secretary Blinken, and I will be traveling to Mexico City to meet with our government and law enforcement counterparts to discuss the most emergent, urgent threats facing our countries. Disrupting the violent cartels manufacturing and trafficking fentanyl will be at the top of the list.
In this vein, just three weeks ago, we extradited from Mexico Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, and a son of the infamous El Chapo. He is one of more than a dozen cartel leaders we have indicted and extradited to the United States. He will not be the last. The United States government is focused on breaking apart every link in the global fentanyl chain.
That includes holding accountable the chemical companies that we know are fueling the fentanyl epidemic.
It is critical that the PRC government stops the unchecked flow of precursor chemicals that are coming from China.
I want to thank the U.S. Attorneys for the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida, and their incredible teams, for their work on these cases. I want to thank the DEA and FBI for their tireless efforts in making the actions we announce today possible.
And I want to thank our terrific partners from across the government.
Finally, I want to express my continued gratitude to some of the most powerful advocates I have ever met: the families who have lost loved ones to a drug poisoning or overdose.
Last week, Administrator Milgram and I spent the morning with people from across the country, who came to Washington for DEA’s second annual family summit.
They came here because each had lost a loved one to a drug poisoning or overdose.
And they came here because they wanted to do everything in their power to prevent that from happening to another family.
They remind us why we fight, and why the battle is so urgent.
We will remember the victims of the fentanyl epidemic. We will pursue justice for them. And we will hold accountable those responsible for these tragedies. Thank you.
And now Secretary Mayorkas.