Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks at press conference announcing several fentanyl-related indictments at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC.
Early in 2022, undercover agents from Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, infiltrated several Chinese chemical companies that were selling precursor chemicals and Schedule 1 narcotics on the internet. The Chinese companies were making their sales in the United States, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, and Russia.
The means of shipment varied; one company, for example, shipped the precursor chemicals and Schedule 1 narcotics via air cargo and UPS. Through their investigation, HSI agents learned that one company had shipped more than 500 kilograms of fentanyl precursors to Tucson, Arizona and Brownsville, Texas. By monitoring telephone numbers associated with the shipments and other investigative techniques, agents were able to identify the bitcoin wallets associated with the Chinese companies.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, working with our DEA partners, used advanced targeting data as part of Operation Artemis, a multi-agency surge effort, to interdict more than half a ton of precursor chemicals in warehouses in Los Angeles and Brownsville before the chemicals could be transported to the drug manufacturers in Mexico, and Arizona, California, and Texas. The precursor chemicals were found in mislabeled and otherwise disguised containers.
The indictments unsealed today communicate at least several important messages:
First and foremost, the incredible work of our federal law enforcement agents and officers. They work tirelessly at great personal risk, to save lives and to hold ruthless criminals accountable.
Second, the law enforcement work that is required to address the scourge of fentanyl requires an all-of-government response, across multiple agencies, and that is precisely what the Biden-Harris Administration is bringing to bear. All of our presence here today makes that powerfully clear.
Third, the scourge of fentanyl is of an international dimension. It certainly is not limited to the United States and Mexico. It spans the globe. Our law enforcement capabilities do as well.
Fourth, we are attacking every instrumentality and every aspect of the criminal organizations and individuals who deal in the death and destruction that is fentanyl and other opioids. In addition to indictments against companies and individuals, we are seizing the drugs, money, and properties they use and seek to obtain.
Fifth, we are unrelenting in our pursuit of the transnational criminal organizations – the cartels – that are at the root of it all – most notably, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion. And, we will reach across the globe to the Chinese companies and their employees who make up part of the cartels’ illegal trafficking operations – and anywhere else where the criminal enterprises resides.
Sixth, the scourge of fentanyl is not abating. Basically, year-over-year it has grown in this country for more than five years, with over 47,000 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2017 and more than 82,000 in 2022.
Lastly, our work is unabating. In fiscal year 2022, CBP seized more than 14,000 pounds of fentanyl. In fiscal year 2023, CBP seized more than 27,000 pounds.
Thanks again to the incredibly heroic work of the law enforcement agents and officers, including the prosecutors on the front line. We, all of us here, all whom we represent, will not pause our work until we have held all perpetrators accountable.