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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman announces update on fight against the opioid crisis in Lorain County two years after launch of Operation S.O.S.

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio
31% decrease in opioid overdose deaths in Lorain County from 2017 to 2019

In July 2018, the Department of Justice announced the launch of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S), a program aimed at reducing the supply of synthetic opioids in 10 high impact areas, including Lorain County in the Northern District of Ohio, and identifying wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers.

Two years ago, under Operation S.O.S, the United States Attorneys in 10 districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country each designated a county where they would focus on prosecuting every readily available case involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of the drug quantity.

Over these two years, Operation S.O.S has resulted in approximately 750 defendants charged in federal court, with 384 of those defendants charged thus far in F.Y. 20. Most importantly, the districts participating in the program have seen a decline in opioid overdoses. From 2017 to 2019, most S.O.S counties reported a decline of 14% to 24%.

“The Justice Department’s commitment to fighting the opioids epidemic is stronger than ever, and we are using every tool in our arsenal to disrupt the supply of these drugs on our streets,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “Operation S.O.S has had a significant positive impact on the communities where it is being employed. The Department will continue to build on these successes and work to stop the drug traffickers who so callously wreck lives.”

Since the launch of the operation in Northern Ohio, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted 121 defendants from Lorain County for their involvement in the distribution of opioids. Approximately 22-percent of these defendants possessed a firearm when they committed their federal offense and about 23-percent of these defendants are classified as “career offenders”, in that they have two or more prior convictions for either drug trafficking or violent offense convictions. The average sentence for an S.O.S. defendant in the Northern District has been 70.4 months.

In Lorain County, opioid overdose deaths have decreased by 31% from 2017 to 2019.

“Drug dealers and other criminals have long targeted Lorain County as an area to exploit and sell their deadly product,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman. “Since 2018, as part of Operation S.O.S, we have committed to assisting our state and local partners by federally prosecuting any fentanyl or opioid trafficking offense from Lorain County.  These numbers should send a strong message – if you deal dope in Lorain County, you will face federal prosecution.”

Notably, in the Northern District as part of Operation S.O.S.:

  1. In July 2020, ten individuals were arrested and charged in a conspiracy to sell crack cocaine, cocaine and a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of oxycodone throughout the Elyria area. Read more here.
  2. A “career offender” in Elyria was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison for drug trafficking. Read more here.
  3. In June of 2019, fifteen people indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to traffic fentanyl, heroin and crack cocaine in Lorain. Read more here.
Updated September 24, 2020