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Press Release

DOJ-Led Opioid Task Force Surge Leads to Over 100 Arrests and Large Heroin and Fentanyl Seizures

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Arizona

     PHOENIX– In the first quarter of 2018, federal and state prosecutors and their law enforcement partners combined resources to investigate and prosecute opioid cases throughout Arizona.  The goal of this surge was to disrupt opioid trafficking throughout the state while promoting case coordination and intelligence sharing between federal, state, and local law enforcement.  During this surge period, the Task Force prosecuted over 90 heroin and opioid traffickers and diverted over 300 people suffering from substance abuse for drug treatment.  Law enforcement seized nearly 300 pounds of heroin, 80 pounds of fentanyl, and tens of thousands of fentanyl pills that were manufactured to appear to be OxyContin.  Of particular note, this surge led to the prosecution of a Tucson dealer whose heroin caused the death of a victim, the prosecution of a Phoenix medical professional who was purchasing OxyContin and morphine from a patient at a medical facility, and an interdiction of a large load of pure fentanyl powder in Mohave County.   The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration also continued its efforts and initiated over 25 new opioid trafficking investigations.

     “The opioid epidemic is a significant public safety concern that continues to kill a record number of Arizonans,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange.  “In the last three months, our office has devoted additional resources to assist federal and state law enforcement to enforce our drug laws.  This surge of resources and coordination with our federal and state law enforcement partners will continue until significant strides are made in disrupting the flow of heroin and fentanyl into our communities and schools.” 

     “The relationship between the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and our Federal and local law enforcement partners is as strong as it has ever been,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “By collaborating together, we are working towards a common goal of dismantling large scale opioid trafficking operations from Arizona communities.”

     “This successful operation has highlighted two continuing truths: 1- law enforcement in Arizona at the federal, state, and local level are committed to combining our resources to offer treatment alternatives to those in need of substance abuse help while also interdicting the sales and distribution of deadly heroin, fentanyl, and counterfeit opioids into our community and 2 -  heroin and fentanyl traffickers continue to seek to exploit Arizona as a major thoroughfare for drug trafficking to the detriment of Arizonans and the Arizona legislature should give us the tools we are asking for to deal with this clearly identified threat,“ said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

     “Opioid overdoses kill 115 Americans every day,” said Doug Coleman, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Phoenix Division.  “The DEA in Arizona will target those who prey on the addiction of others by illegally distributing opioids, and we will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure these criminals face justice.”

     The removal of unused prescribed opioids from the public is also a vital component of the Department of Justice’s overall strategy to reduce opioid abuse.  This strategic component is crucial due to the significant rise in the manufacture and distribution of fentanyl pills that mimic the look of OxyContin pills.  If you have unused prescription opioids or other prescription drugs in your home, and want to dispose of them safely, please take advantage of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Takeback Day on Saturday, April 28, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.    Collection sites will be set up throughout the state on that day to provide the public with a safe, convenient, and responsible way of disposing of prescription drugs.  Please go to to find the nearest collection site.

     The members of this DOJ-led Opioid Task Force include the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the Pima County Attorney’s Office, the Phoenix Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


RELEASE NUMBER:    2018-048_ Opioid Task Force


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Updated April 23, 2018

Community Outreach
Press Release Number: 2018-048_ Opioid Task Force