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DOJ announces largest-of-its-kind drug operation

A recent international DOJ operation resulted in 288 arrests and the seizure of 64 kilograms of fentanyl or fentanyl-laced narcotics.
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington.
Posted at 1:53 PM, May 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-02 13:53:45-04

The Department of Justice’s Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement announced Tuesday its Operation SpecTor made 288 arrests, the most in a single operation. 

The operation also netted more seizures than any other previous operation. The DOJ said 117 firearms, 850 kilograms of drugs that include 64 kilograms of fentanyl or fentanyl-laced narcotics, and $53.4 million were seized in the operation. 

The Department of Justice said the operation spanned three continents and was intended to disrupt fentanyl and opioid trafficking on the darknet, or dark web.

“Our message to criminals on the dark web is this: You can try to hide in the furthest reaches of the internet, but the Justice Department will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The operation included 100 federal operations prosecutions, the DOJ said.

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One of the prosecutions resulted in a 16-year sentence for Anton Peck, who the DOJ said distributed narcotics using a vendor profile. The DOJ said that Peck carried out transactions through cryptocurrency and mailed fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine to cities around the country using the U.S. Postal Service. 

Federal prosecutors said Peck kept a list of 6,000 customers in the U.S.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service leverages our specialized knowledge of the postal system as part of sophisticated dark web investigations such as Operation SpecTor with great results,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “We are committed to taking all necessary actions to combat illicit drugs in the mail. And we thank our law enforcement partners for working with us to achieve this; removing dangerous illicit substances from the mail and American communities saves lives.”

Some of the cases are still being prosecuted. One such case involves Holly Adams and Devlin Hosner of California. The DOJ said the two operated vendor accounts on darknet marketplaces to sell tens of thousands of counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl in exchange for cryptocurrency. The DOJ alleged that Adams and Hosner have finalized 1,100 transactions and sent drugs and contraband using USPS, UPS and other delivery methods.

Officials said the threat of illicit drugs being sold online continues. 

“The availability of dangerous substances like fentanyl on dark net marketplaces is helping to fuel the crisis that has claimed far too many American lives,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “That's why we will continue to join forces with our law enforcement partners around the globe to attack this problem together. The FBI is proud to stand with our domestic and foreign partners as we continue to shine that light into the deepest corners of the dark net and hold those accountable who continue to peddle this poison around the world.”

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,107,375 Americans in 2021 died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings. Two-thirds of those deaths were attributable to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. 

Government data has foundthe rate of fatal drug overdoses doubled from 2015 to 2021.