WASHINGTON –– Last week, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies announced the results of Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen, surge efforts to curtail the flow of illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States from Mexico, as the U.S. Department of Justice announced referrals for prosecution in cases stemming from the operations in Arizona and Southern California.
In just two months, Operation Blue Lotus along with Operation Four Horsemen seized nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl, and more than 10,000 pounds of narcotics like cocaine and methamphetamines. In its last week alone, Blue Lotus saw a 2000% percent increase in seizures at a single port of entry and arrested 284 people on fentanyl charges.
“We are incredibly proud of the DHS workforce at CBP and HSI, whose dedication to holding criminals accountable for their trafficking of deadly substances like fentanyl is unwavering,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “As the cases referred for federal prosecution show, these operations had significant results. We are not done. Working with our state and federal partners, we will continue to go after these criminal networks, leveraging every bit of investigative and technological innovation at every turn. Drug cartels have been trafficking in fentanyl for years, and DHS is bringing unprecedented force to our fight against them. In the last two years, DHS has seized more fentanyl than it did in the previous five years combined. In the last two years, DHS arrested more criminals for committing crimes related to fentanyl and precursors chemicals than it did in the previous five years combined.”
Operation Blue Lotus leveraged advanced analytics and intelligence capabilities at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The operation consisted of a focused deployment of HSI personnel alongside CBP Officers at ports of entry, where over 90 percent of fentanyl is trafficked in cars and trucks, so that HSI could immediately pursue investigations as contraband was discovered. Working with federal, state, tribal and local partners, the investigations in turn helped expose the networks. The complementary U.S. Border Patrol operation, Operation Four Horsemen, focused between ports of entry and at check points near the border.
HSI and CBP officials joined Offices of the U.S. Attorneys in San Diego and Phoenix last week to announce results locally. In San Diego County alone, the two-month surge resulted in a 300% increase in fentanyl seizures versus the same period last year — from 732 pounds in 2022 to 2,931 pounds in 2023 and a 30% increase in defendants prosecuted for fentanyl-related crimes. In Arizona, the operation yielded other illicit contraband, with DHS, federal, and state partners interdicting .50-caliber ammunition bound for Mexico.
“Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our CBP officers and agents, and in collaboration with HSI and other partners, Operation Blue Lotus prevented thousands of pounds of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs from entering the United States and making their way into our communities,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller. “This multi-agency effort is a model of how law enforcement partnerships can drive aggressive action to disrupt drug trafficking, take the fight to smugglers, and protect our communities against the scourge of fentanyl.”
“Operation Blue Lotus demonstrates the commitment of HSI and our federal, state, and local partners in bringing the full weight of national law enforcement resources to bear against the fentanyl epidemic,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae Johnson. “HSI continues to detect, deter, and disrupt these dangerous narcotics trafficked by transnational criminal organizations and we will continue to remove members and known associates from the communities we protect to deny future opportunities for these deadly criminal enterprises to operate within our borders.”
DHS is matching unprecedented challenges with unprecedented solutions to secure the border.
Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen are demonstrations of the Biden Administration’s commitment to stopping the flow of fentanyl into the U.S. and saving lives. DHS has also initiated major investigative and enforcement operations targeting the illicit fentanyl supply chain and its chemical precursors, has established taskforce units at CBP’s international mail facilities, and is investing in non-intrusive inspection technology to significantly expand our ability to screen traffic at land border ports of entry.
The insights gained in these operations will enhance the targeting of drug traffickers at the border while furthering criminal cases against the transnational criminal organizations facilitating this deadly substance.