By Taylor Tinsley
5:50 PM – Monday, November 20, 2023
The Department of Justice has charged nearly two dozen people in a large-scale fentanyl trafficking conspiracy.
On Monday, DOJ officials announced the fourth superseding indictment in the case that charges 23 alleged members of a fentanyl distribution network responsible for bringing hundreds of thousands of fake pills resembling oxycodone from California to Washington DC.
“In this case alone we have seized to date over 20 kilograms of fentanyl powder and approximately a quarter million pills,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves.
The multi-state operation kicked off in April of 2021, after DC resident Diamond Lynch relapsed and reached out to her old supplier. She was given a fake pill and overdosed.
Officials from both the DOJ and Drug Enforcement Administration continue to emphasize that “one pill can kill.” Her dealer has since been convicted and sentenced to 140 months in federal prison.
“Our prosecutors and law enforcement partners followed the evidence, we expanded our investigation and identified each wrong of this fentanyl supply network and have charged 26 defendants to date,” Graves said.
DEA administrator Anne Milgram said the distribution conspiracy started with pills sourced from Mexico, but the network wouldn’t have been possible without Instagram.
Milgram said almost every single defendant used the social media platform to find sources of supply, new avenues of distribution, the amount of pills they were ordering, coordinating shipments and more.
The DEA administrator said they were allowed to investigate the direct messages through search warrants. However, she said this line of work could become even more difficult to prevent in future cases if social media companies “implement warrant proof end to end encryption,” which turns a blind eye to criminals who run operations through their platform.
“Meta, the company that owns Instagram, announced this past August that it intends to do just that,” Milgram said. “This is the unprecedented threat that we are dealing with and it is the reason why 110,757 Americans died from drug poisoning in the year 2022.”
Milgram echoed the DEA’s vow to leave no stone unturned. She promised to follow more leads but affirmed “we all need to do more” to end the fentanyl crisis.