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Tag: DEA

CBP Seized Records Amount of Fentanyl at Borders Last Year

The DEA and CBP are seizing record amounts of fentanyl. Photo: Shutterstock

By Steve Neavling

More fentanyl was seized at the border than heroin last year for the first time ever. 

Fentanyl seizures and overdoses reached record highs as the DEA tries to crack down on drug cartels that are pushing the drug, the Washington Examiner reports.

What makes it even more challenging is that drug users are unwittingly consuming fentanyl, which is being added to street drugs at alarming levels.

“Everything is potentially deadly right now, and people need to be aware,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told ABC’s This Week in a recent interview.

CBP intercepted 11,200 pounds of fentanyl last fiscal year, which is more than double the amount seized in 2020. By comparison, CBP intercepted 5,400 pounds of heroin in fiscal year 2021. 

In 2013, when CBP began seizing fentanyl, only 2 pounds were seized. 

The DEA also seized a record amount of fentanyl last year.

“The drug threat today is different than it ever was before. Now, today, this is all synthetic or man-made. There’s an unlimited amount of these drugs that can be made,” Milgram said.

Fentanyl Seized by DEA Is Enough to ‘Kill Every Single American’

The DEA seized 15,000 pounds of fentanyl in one year. Photo: Shutterstock

By Steve Neavling

The DEA has seized so much fentanyl in the past year that it’s enough to “kill every single American,” Anne Milgram, head of the DEA, said. 

In an interview on Face the Nation, Miligram said the agency has seized 15,000 pounds of the deadly, highly addictive synthetic opioid.

“We’ve taken off 20 million fake pills this year. We estimate at the DEA lab that four in 10 of those pills are potentially deadly. We’ve taken off 15,000 pounds of fentanyl this year. That is enough potentially lethal doses to kill every single American,” Milgram said. “So we are doing a lot of work to make sure that we are taking those drugs off the street.”

In the 12 months ending April 2021, more than 100,000 people died in the U.S. from drug overdoses. Nearly 64% of the deaths were caused by fentanyl. 

“We’re in the middle of an unprecedented moment, 100,000 Americans have died. That’s more Americans than died from car crashes. That’s more Americans that died from car crashes and gun violence in the past year. This is unprecedented, and it is tragic,” Milgram said. “So to me, DEA has to do everything we can to meet this moment. We have to do more than we’ve ever done before, and so does Mexico, and so does China. And so to me, this is about saving lives.”  

The fentanyl is mainly coming from drug cartels in Mexico, and the chemicals are being imported from China, Milgram said. 

“We’ve built a case against the criminal drug networks,” she added. “And we’ve drawn that line between the Mexican criminal cartels that are mass producing illicit fentanyl and making these fake pills and pouring it into the United States. What we’re doing is investigating. We want to understand everything about how this is happening. And of course, the social media companies need to do more.”

Former DEA Special Agent Sentenced to More Than 12 Years in Prison for Laundering Money

By Steve Neavling

A former DEA special agent was sentenced Thursday to more than 12 years in prison for diverting more than $9 million from undercover money-laundering investigations to his own accounts to buy luxury cars, jewelry, and a home.

Jose Ismael Irizarry, 47, of Puerto Rico, pleaded guilty on Sept. 14 to 19 charges as part of a seven-year scheme in which he and his wife used the money to finance a lavish lifestyle. 

“The Department of Justice has zero tolerance for abuse of public office and is committed to ferreting out and prosecuting corruption wherever found, especially among the ranks of law enforcement,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement.

The money was deposited into bank accounts controlled by Irizarry, and his wife, Nathalia Gomez-Irizarry, and other co-conspirators. They used some of the laundered money to buy a Tiffany diamond ring, a $135,000 Land Rover and a home in Cartagena.

Irizarry, while investigating money laundering by Columbia’s drug cartels, worked with the drug traffickers to launder money seized from drop operations, prosecutors say.

“Public corruption is the FBI’s top criminal investigative priority, and we will not be deterred in our commitment to expose the deceitful even if it means arresting a former federal agent,” Michael McPherson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office, said. “The FBI and its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners will remain steadfast and focused on the work to maintain the public’s trust in government.”

Irizarry previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, honest services wire fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit identity theft, and aggravated identity theft. Gomez-Irizarry pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

“Former Special Agent Irizarry abused the trust of the American people when he repeatedly violated his oath as a federal law enforcement officer,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said. “Bringing him to justice reflects the principles of those who faithfully serve and uphold the values of DEA. The men and women of DEA remain committed to protecting our communities and holding all accountable who engage in drug-related crimes. I commend our federal law enforcement partners who investigated this case with utmost professionalism and the prosecutors who worked tirelessly to bring Irizarry to justice.”

Prosecutors say the scheme began after Irizarry filed for bankruptcy in December 2010. At no point in the bankruptcy proceedings did he disclose any of the illicit income to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

“This is an egregious breach of the trust by a federal agent who was sworn to protect and serve the American people,” John Condon, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tampa Field Office, said. “While his actions are uncharacteristic of the dedication and integrity demonstrated by the vast majority of government employees, this case should send a message about the serious consequences facing those who would exploit their positions and violate that special trust.”

DEA Seizes Largest Amount of Cocaine Destined for New York in More Than a Decade

By Steve Neavling

The DEA seized more than a ton of cocaine that was destined for New York, and three people were indicted for their alleged involvement in a drug trafficking conspiracy. 

It was the largest seizure of cocaine headed to New York in more than a decade, according to DEA Special Agent in Charge Roy Donavan. 

“A multimillion-dollar storm of cocaine was seized before it could wreak havoc in the Northeast,” Donovan said in a statement.  “Over one ton of cocaine was seized, making it the largest cocaine seizure destined for the streets of New York in over a decade.  This seizure signifies a shift in the illegal drug landscape in New York, with cocaine seizures rising more than 150% in the last year.  DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to guard against drug trafficking organizations’ tactics and techniques to smuggle drugs into our country.”

Jorge Aponte-Guzman, 33, Nelson Agramonte-Minaya, 37, and Carlos Maisonet-Lopez, 32, face up to life in prison on charges of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 5 kilograms of cocaine. 

According to federal prosecutors, the drugs were inside 10 large metal law rollers in a rental van. 

“A seizure of this magnitude underscores the critical importance of working together with our federal and local law enforcement partners in the DEA Westchester Task Force, Westchester County Police Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said. “The tremendous work and dedication of the DEA and Task Force Investigators has interrupted a major drug distribution operation and prevented approximately one ton of dangerous, illegal narcotics from being distributed on the streets of our area.” 

Read the full indictment here.

Record Number of Fatal Fentanyl Overdoses Come Amid Unprecedented Seizures at Border

Pills laced with fentanyl.

By Steve Neavling

The record number of fentanyl crossing the border is having deadly consequences: Overdose deaths have hit a new high this year. 

“If they’re seizing a lot, it’s because a lot is coming in — because you don’t know the percentage of how much is coming through that they’re actually seizing,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told The Washington Examiner.

The problem is the ease of producing and transporting fentanyl compared to other drugs, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

“Only a very small concentration of fentanyl is needed in order to produce a high. So, this makes it much easier to bring fentanyl across the border – in smaller, but more potent, quantities than other drugs,” Volkow wrote in an email.

“Based on the number of drug seizures reported in 2020 for fentanyl, it appears that the illicit drug market did not suffer during the pandemic, but actually expanded,” Volkow said. “Rising fentanyl availability, decreased access to addiction treatment, increased social and economic stressors, and overburdened health departments collided in 2020 and were associated with a tragic rise in overdose deaths.”

CBP confiscated 11,201 pounds of fentanyl between October 2020 and September 2021. To put that into perspective, a single kilogram of fentanyl can kill up to 500,000 people.

Because of its potency, a small amount of fentanyl can go a long way, making it easier to smuggle into the U.S., and it’s very profitable. 

Less than month ago, the DEA announced it had arrested 810 people and seized more than 1.8 million counterfeit pills containing fentanyl as part of an eight-week crackdown on fake, dangerous prescription drugs.

According to the alert, more than 9.5 million counterfeit pills have been seized so far this year, which is more than the last two years combined. 

Man Who Fatally Shot DEA Agent on Amtrak Train in Arizona Was Out of Jail on Bond

Darrion Taylor. Photo: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

By Steve Neavling

The 26-year-old man who opened fire inside an Amtrak train and killed a DEA agent in Arizona and wounded a city police officer was facing multiple criminal charges in California. 

Darrion Taylor, who died in the shootout, was out of jail on bond in late December, Tucson.com reports.

Taylor had been charged with assault with a deadly weapon and resisting arrest in Alameda County following his arrest in 2020. He posted a $25,500 bond on Dec. 29. 

Special Agent Michael Garbo

Special Agent Michael Garbo, a 16-year veteran of the DEA, was fatally shot in the Amtrak train in Tucson while doing a routine inspection for illegal drugs and guns on the train.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Raymond Kelly said the shooting was a preventable tragedy. 

“It’s a disaster, it’s a disaster,” Kelly said. “Everybody involved in the criminal justice will tell you the same thing.”

DEA’s Most Wanted Fugitive, a Columbian Drug Lord, Captured by Military Forces

Dairo Antonio Úsuga was captured in Columbia. Photo: DEA

By Steve Neavling

Dairo Antonio Úsuga, Columbia’s most-wanted drug lord who was also targeted by the U.S. for cocaine trafficking, was arrested in a jungle hideout by military forces.  

President Iván Duque on Saturday announced the arrest of Úsuga, 50, who is widely known by his alias, Otoniel, The New York Times reports.

He is expected to be extradited to the U.S.

Duque compared the arrest to the capture of Pablo Escobar three decades ago. 

“This is the heaviest blow that has been dealt to drug trafficking in this century in our country,” Duque said in a national address. “This blow is comparable only to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.”

Úsuga, who was long on the DEA’s most-wanted fugitives list, was on the run for more than a decade. The DEA was offering a $5 million reward for his capture. 

He’s accused of leading the brutal Clan del Golfo, a band of assassins who gained control of cocaine smuggling routes in northern Columbia. 

With Úsuga in custody, investigators could begin to understand the inner workings of the clandestine criminal organization. 

“His arrest also represents a major victory for Colombia’s security forces, which are confronting growing public mistrust over allegations of human rights abuses, soaring coca cultivation, and rising crime and violence,” Paul J. Angelo, a fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations said in an email to The New York Times. 

Funeral Services for DEA Agent Fatally Shot on Amtrak Train Set for Today

DEA Special Agent Michael Garbo. Photo via DEA.

By Steve Neavling

DEA Special Agent Michael Garbo, who was shot and killed by an Amtrak train passenger in Tucson, Ariz., will be remembered with a public funeral this morning. 

Garbo, a 16-year veteran of the DEA, was killed Monday while doing a routine inspection for illegal drugs and guns on the train, and two other law enfacement officers were also wounded. The gunman, who barricaded himself inside a bathroom, died from gunshot wounds.  

A law enforcement procession will take place at Bring’s Broadway Chapel beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Funeral services begin at Calvary Chapel at 10 a.m., followed by an outdoor ceremony at 11:30 a.m. 

Watch the funeral service live here. CBP also is providing a live stream.