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Press Release

Statement of United States Attorney Mike Stuart on District's Successes in the Fight Against the Opioid Crisis at the One Year Mark of Operation S.O.S.

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorney Mike Stuart issued the following statement in response to the Department of Justice’s announcement of first year successes in Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge (S.O.S.):

“It’s a remarkable record.  Over the past year, we have worked with our law enforcement partners to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids that have ravaged my District and with it destruction, chaos and death.  We are so pleased to have remarkable partnerships with our Operation SOS teams  – the DEA and OCDETF – as we tackle this crisis on behalf of the people of West Virginia.  I want to thank Attorney General Barr, the Department of Justice, and all of our law enforcement partners for allowing us to be a part of this critical operation and for committing the resources to allow us to make such critical progress.

Originally identified as one of the ten districts comprising Operation S.O.S., the Southern District has become a national leader in the fight against the purveyors of these poisons.  In my district alone, in a single year, we have 62 cases pending as a result of Operation S.O.S. with 13 convictions. And most recently, a 1.2 kilogram mixture of fentanyl and heroin was seized from a defendant in one of those cases – enough fentanyl to kill more than 600,000 people.  Those figures don’t even include the additional fentanyl we took off the street that could have killed more than 1.6 million people last year.

Our efforts are conducted with a sense of urgency.  Everyday.  24/7/365.  We are focused and working to end this terrible tragic tale.  We are aggressively targeting the drug thugs that poison our children and our communities.  The drug dealers, drug thugs, and poison peddlers need to understand they are not welcome here.

My record is tough - no revolving door for drug thugs or Detroit mules and I lock them up as long as we possibly can.  There are more takedowns to come.   These are our streets.  And we’re taking them back.”

The full Department of Justice press release is below.



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The United States Department of Justice


TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2019 



WASHINGTON – 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.  

Over the past year, 10 districts with some of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country, each targeted a county where they focused on prosecuting every readily available case involving fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other synthetic opioids, regardless of the drug quantity. These districts worked with DEA Special Operations Division to track and coordinate these street-level cases and also received additional assistance from the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF).

“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.”

The 10 participating districts and some of their successes are listed below:

  • 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 previous year.
  • The Southern District of Ohio has 58 Operation S.O.S. investigations of the 58 investigations, 52 involve fentanyl distribution.
  • 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.
  • The 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.

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Updated July 16, 2019