DAYTON – 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 the Southern District of Ohio, and identifying wholesale distribution networks and international and domestic suppliers.
Under Operation SOS, 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.
“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 SOS 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.”
In Dayton, 106 defendants have been charged in federal court since the initiative started, including approximately 50 defendants charged in FY2020.
One Dayton case – U.S. v. Marco Villa et al. – involved the lead defendant arranging for bulk amounts of fentanyl to be shipped from Mexico to his grandmother’s house in Dayton where it was picked up and kept at various places around the city. When federal agents questioned him on June 26, 2019, they seized 483 grams of fentanyl at his house. The defendant intended to accept another 256 grams that day.
Villa was sentenced on Sept. 9 to 150 months in prison.
U.S. v. Anthony Franklin, et al. involves an individual who had previously served a nine-year state prison sentence for drug trafficking. On Oct. 22, 2019, after law enforcement observed activity consistent with drug transactions, including the delivery of what appeared to be a kilogram of narcotics by a courier, members of the FBI Safe Streets Task Force executed a search warrant at a residence in Dayton, where they located three firearms, 1,205 grams of methamphetamine, 1,716 grams of fentanyl, 305 grams of heroin, drug processing equipment and 12 cell phones.
One of the recovered cell phones contained photographs of multiple kilograms of fentanyl and communications with a narcotics supplier. Through subsequent investigation, law enforcement recovered an additional 19.5 kilograms of fentanyl/carfentanil.
Another case involved defendant Robert Cartwright. On Oct. 9, 2019, members of the Dayton -based Regional Agencies Narcotics and Gun Enforcement Task Force (RANGE), working in conjunction with DEA Ft. Wayne, watched an Indiana-based distributor of heroin/fentanyl purchase approximately 100 grams of fentanyl from Cartwright in Dayton. On Oct. 17, 2019, RANGE executed a search warrant at Cartwright’s residence, and located 673.73 grams of fentanyl, a Glock 19, a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, $42,424 in cash, and drug processing equipment, including a hydraulic press and press parts, and five digital scales.
Cartwright has pleaded guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing.
“Street drug dealers often mix or ‘cut’ their dope with fentanyl, a drug 50 times more powerful than pure heroin and so potent that a few grains the size of salt can kill a person,” said U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers. “More than 230 people in Montgomery County have died from accidental illegal drug overdoses so far this year and statistically, it’s likely that many of the deaths can be tied to fentanyl.”
U.S. Attorney DeVillers commended the Assistant United States Attorneys and supporting staff of the Dayton U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts in prosecuting more than 100 fentanyl cases over the past two years.
Nationally, since 2018, Operation SOS has resulted in approximately 750 defendants being charged in federal court, with 384 of those defendants charged thus far in FY 20. Most importantly, the districts participating in the program have seen a decline in opioid overdoses. From 2017 to 2019, most SOS counties reported a decline of 14% to 24%. One notable success was in the Western District of Pennsylvania, where the opioid overdose rates declined by nearly 45%.
The nine other participating districts and some of their successes include:
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