Action Highlights U.S. Whole-of-Government Approach to Address Fentanyl Crisis
WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas detailed efforts by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to disrupt the fentanyl precursor chemical supply chain. Working in concert with federal partners, HSI agents and CBP officers investigated and interdicted precursor chemicals that Mexican cartels were attempting to smuggle into the United States. This whole-of-government effort led to three of the indictments announced today by the Department of Justice charging China-based companies, their employees, and others with fentanyl trafficking, precursor chemical importation, making and using counterfeit postage, and money laundering offenses.
“The international dimension to the deadly scourge of fentanyl requires the all-of-government response that we are delivering today,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “Through the dedication and investigative abilities of Agents and Officers from HSI, CBP, and our federal partners, we are bringing accountability to ruthless organizations and individuals resident in the People’s Republic of China and to the cartel members that seek to profit from the death and destruction that fentanyl causes.”
Beginning in 2022, HSI agents infiltrated several Chinese chemical companies that were selling precursor chemicals and Schedule 1 narcotics on the internet to clients in the United States, Mexico, United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia, including, in the case of one company, via air cargo and the United Parcel Service (UPS). After examining UPS records, agents learned the one company had shipped over 500 kg of fentanyl precursors to Tucson, Arizona and Brownsville, Texas, where, agents believe, co-conspirators associated with cartels then transported the chemicals to Mexico. Agents also began monitoring several Chinese-based telephone numbers that coordinated the illicit purchases and discovered the Bitcoin wallets associated with the companies. Additionally, CBP Field Operations officers and their counterparts at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used advanced targeting data to interdict over half a ton of precursor chemicals at warehouses in California and Texas before they could be transported to drug manufacturers. These chemicals were found in purposely-mislabeled boxes and, after processing, would have yielded almost 2,000 pounds of fentanyl.
“The indictments announced today further emphasize how critical the investigative efforts of Homeland Security Investigations are, particularly as aligned to its Strategy for Combating Illicit Opioids,” said ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Patrick J. Lechleitner. “Our concerted, whole of government effort to disrupting and dismantling transnational criminal organizations and bad actors from flooding our nation and the communities we serve with these deadly chemicals and substances remains critical – we are as relentless in this fight as those who deliberately engage in this illicit manufacturing and trafficking – we will see that more of you are brought to justice.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection is leading federal government efforts to stopping the flow of fentanyl, precursor chemicals and pill presses into the United States,” said CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Commissioner Troy A. Miller. “The indictments unsealed today, charging People’s Republic of China-based companies and their employees, are a stark reminder that those who look to profit from this deadly enterprise have nowhere to hide. CBP’s counter-fentanyl efforts are comprehensive, our resolve is infinite, and our law enforcement partnerships will continue to deliver results and save lives.”
The indictments announced today demonstrate the effectiveness of the Biden-Harris Administration’s approach to combatting the fentanyl crisis that utilizes and harmonizes all of government’s resources and capabilities to disrupt every element of the fentanyl supply chain and every facet of the drug cartel enterprise. DHS plays a central role in this effort. Following the success of Operations Blue Lotus and Four Horsemen, which stopped nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl and led to 284 arrests during a two-month period earlier this year, DHS launched Operation Artemis in May 2023 to target and disrupt the fentanyl supply chain. Since its launch, Operation Artemis has resulted in over 500 seizures, yielding over 12,900 pounds of fentanyl precursor chemicals, along with finished fentanyl, pill presses and molds, and other drug paraphernalia.