Justice Department Focus on Fentanyl Yields Results in Montgomery County
DAYTON – One year ago, the Justice Department announced the formation of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S.), a program designed to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids in high impact areas as well as identifying wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers.
The Southern District of Ohio is one of 10 districts included in the initiative to target counties with high drug overdose death rates and focus on federally prosecuting every readily available case involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogues and other synthetic opioids, regardless of the drug quantity.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, announced 58 operation S.O.S. investigations in the Southern District of Ohio. Of those 58 investigations, 52 involve fentanyl distribution.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office here is working in coordination with the DEA, ATF, FBI and HSI to bring cases to fruition. The initiative in the Southern District of Ohio has a primary focus on Montgomery County, given the interconnectedness of drug trafficking across the region, includes cases from nearby counties as well.
- Last month, Salvador Ramirez was sentenced to 180 months in federal prison. A federal indictment in July 2018 charged him and six other individuals in a drug trafficking conspiracy in the Miami Valley and across southern and central Ohio. This investigation includes the seizure of more than seven kilograms of fentanyl.
- This spring, an Arizona man and a Dayton man pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute large quantities of fentanyl in Dayton. Michael Nailen worked as a commercial truck driver, and when traveling for work, he permitted other individuals to hide kilogram quantities of drugs and bulk amounts of cash in his tractor trailer. More than 400 grams of fentanyl were distributed via Marco Gonzalez, who would meet Nailen in Dayton and other Ohio cities to deliver the drugs to local dealers.
- In March, a Springfield, Ohio man was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for possessing 14 grams of carfentanil. Craig Gilbreath ran from officers after being encountered by police and ultimately threw bags containing the carfentanil, which is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and used to immobilize large animals.
“The rise of synthetic opioids presents an unprecedented public health and safety crisis in the Southern District of Ohio. Countering that crisis will continue to require prevention, enforcement, and treatment, and it will require everyone working together. Enforcement targeted toward areas particularly hard hit by synthetic opioid distribution, in the interests of reducing supply and disrupting the formation of distribution hubs, is one important piece of our enforcement strategy. The death and destruction caused by synthetic opioids remain unacceptable, but the work that law enforcement agents and prosecutors are doing as part of this operation is one reason for optimism.”
The other nine participating districts and some of their successes include:
- The Eastern District of California has reported a total of 27 Operation S.O.S. investigations in which the narcotics seized have included kilogram-quantities of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.
- The Eastern District of Kentucky has reported 15 investigations with six to eight new investigations being added monthly and has charged nine sentence-enhanced “death resulting” cases.
- The District of Maine has an additional 30 cases as a result of Operation S.O.S.
- The District of New Hampshire has had 41 cases through Operation S.O.S. that have resulted in indictments with fentanyl being distributed in 39 of those cases amongst other drugs.
- The Northern District of Ohio has indicted 71 defendants under Operation S.O.S., and has seen a 12 percent decrease in overdose deaths from the year prior.
- The Western District of Pennsylvania noticed the decline in overdose deaths in the county they originally had targeted. This decline was attributed to a large number of people moving out of the targeted county to attempt to circumvent the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s efforts. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has refocused their resources to target the county where fatal overdoses have increased the most.
- The Eastern District of Tennessee has reported seven Operation S.O.S. cases involving 39 defendants, with a number of those including “death resulting” cases.
- The Northern District of West Virginia has 22 Operation S.O.S. cases with one “death resulting” prosecution. One of these investigations resulted in eight separate cases involving 35 defendants.
- Southern District of West Virginia has 62 cases pending as a result of Operation S.O.S. with 13 convictions. Just recently, a 1.2 kilogram mixture of fentanyl and heroin was seized from a defendant in one of those cases.
“Our attorneys and law enforcement agents have spent the past year working tirelessly to disrupt the networks engaged in the trafficking of synthetic opioids. Today we are proud to share their successes in 10 of the districts most affected by this scourge,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said. “The Department of Justice’s efforts have resulted in countless successes from California to Maine. We have successfully sought enhanced sentences in cases that resulted in deadly overdoses, and we have boosted cooperation among the partners involved. There remains much work to be done, but Operation S.O.S. marks a crucial turning point in the fight against synthetic opioids.”
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