Federal Prosecutors Targeting Fentanyl Dealers During Opioid Crisis
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California has charged three people since March after they sold fentanyl to someone who had a fatal overdose.
"The number of deaths in San Diego have skyrocketed in the past decade and really in the last year," according to Adam Braverman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California. "From 2016 to 2017 the amount of deaths due to fentanyl have more than doubled."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed the Department of Justice to bring criminal and civil charges to combat the epidemic.
“By holding dealers accountable for the deaths of overdose victims, we bring justice to loved ones and reaffirm to all those dealing in death that we will not let it go unpunished,” Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Karen I. Flowers said in a news release.
If opioid dealers are found guilty, there is a mandatory 20-year minimum prison sentence.
"There were roughly 70 deaths in the last six months of 2017," Braverman said. "We are going over every one of those cases with the district attorney's office to make a determination whether we can identify the dealer."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Prosecutors said the deadly drug regularly comes into San Diego from Mexico.
"Eighty percent of the fentanyl seizures that occur along the southwest border are in our district," Braverman said. "So this is a problem for San Diego."
In February, the Southern District of California hired two “opioid coordinators” to assist with investigations.
"Other U.S. Attorney’s are certainly considering these charges," Braverman said. "We like to think of ourselves at the forefront of bringing these charges because it’s really a problem that’s acute to the southwest border."
Braverman said his office is stepping up fentanyl investigations along the southern border.
"To identify those people in Mexico that are manufacturing these opioids and shipping them to San Diego," he said. "Bring charges against them, and extradite them here to San Diego."
Braverman said the three people charged with distributing fentanyl causing death are still awaiting trial.