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NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito pledged the office’s strong support for a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) initiative announced in Camden today to address the problem of opioid and heroin abuse in New Jersey.
“The misuse of prescription opioid painkillers, heroin and the synthetic drug fentanyl are wreaking havoc in our communities and destroying thousands of lives,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “The program announced by DEA Special Agent in Charge Valerie Nickerson attacks the epidemic on three fronts: coordinated targeting of drug organizations and gangs, encouraging smarter prescribing practices and use of painkillers, and outreach to affected communities. We will work closely with DEA and all of the ‘DEA 360 Strategy’ partners in this important battle.”
As part of this effort, the District of New Jersey – like all other U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the country – has designated an Opioid Coordinator, who is responsible for facilitating intake of cases involving prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl. The coordinator – Assistant U.S. Attorney Erica Liu – is also responsible for convening a task force of federal, state, and local law enforcement to identify opioid cases for federal prosecution, facilitating interdiction efforts, and tailoring the district’s response to the needs of the community. To enhance our efforts and capabilities, Assistant U.S. Attorney Liu is providing legal advice and training to other AUSAs regarding the prosecution of opioid offenses; maintaining a close watch on the advancement of opioid prosecutions in the district; and developing and continually evaluating the effectiveness of the office’s strategy to combat the opioid epidemic.
“Erica was specifically chosen for this assignment because of her unique experience,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “With a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and experience as a county and federal prosecutor, she has the bonafides for this job. Erica is passionate about this issue and well-suited for the task.”
In September 2016, the Department of Justice directed each U.S. Attorney to consult with local stakeholders and draft a district-specific strategy to combat the opioid epidemic. The office’s role in the DEA 360 Strategy will be part of that effort.