TULSA – The 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) released by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon, stated that opioids remain the largest threat to the United States.
In response to the NDTA, the United States Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Oklahoma is aggressively prosecuting crimes involving illegal opioid distribution.
The Northern District of Oklahoma recently stated in a press release that Oklahoma is not exempt from the opioid crisis.
“We are focused on identifying and prosecuting those who are responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic,” it stated. “Defendants have included everyone from licensed medical professionals to individuals involved in multi-level drug distribution organizations with international ties. We view all of these individuals as drug traffickers, and no one is exempt from prosecution.”
Recently the Northern District of Oklahoma has prosecuted opioid related cases, such as the conviction of Darowe Jones, 39, of Tulsa, on Oct. 24. Jones was charged with conspiracy to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin, as well as other drugs, in the greater Tulsa area. Another opioid related case was the prosecution of Jennifer Boyce, Michael Miers and Christina Dempsey, all of which conspired to sell oxycodone pills, resulting in the death of a woman in Mayes County.
The NDTA also reported that one of the oldest Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations, the Juarez Cartel, is still impacting the drug consumer market within Oklahoma City and surrounding communities, such as El Paso and Denver. The Juarez Cartel mainly controls a marijuana and cocaine drug operation but has recently expanded into heroin and methamphetamine distribution in the United States.
The Indian Brotherhood has become more active within Oklahoma, the NDTA reports. In 2016, law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma began noticing more violent crimes involving the Indian Brotherhood, such as homicides, burglaries and drug distribution at Tribal casinos and lands. They also found that the Indian Brotherhood was instrumental in the smuggling of contraband including dugs, paraphernalia and cellular telephones into the Department of Corrections Facility in McAlester.
“The BIA Division of Drug Enforcement (DDE) and the DEA worked jointly on two OCDETF cases targeting long-term drug conspiracies. BIA agents were able to obtain large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine from members of the gang. Law enforcement officers were later able to identify one of the leaders of the IBH in order to pursue an investigation. As a result, 13 members or associates of the IBH were arrested and over 12 kilograms of methamphetamine and four ounces of heroin were seized,” the NDTA states.
Overall, the NDTA reported that illicit drugs, as well as the criminal organizations who traffic them, remain a threat to public health, law enforcement and national security in the United States.
“Drug poisoning deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States; they are currently at their highest ever recorded level and, every year since 2001, have outnumbered
deaths by firearm, motor vehicle crashes, suicide and homicide,” the NDTA states in the Executive Summary.
The NDTA’s other key findings are the following:
* Heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths almost doubled between 2013 and 2016. This has been exacerbated by the increased adulteration of heroin with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Heroin available in U.S. markets is primarily sourced from Mexico, where opium poppy cultivation and heroin production have both increased significantly in recent years. (pages 11-20)
* Of all opioids, the abuse of illicit fentanyl and other synthetic opioids has led to the greatest number of deaths in the United States. Fentanyl is increasingly available in the form of counterfeit prescription pills marketed for illicit street sales, and also sold by traffickers on its own, without the presence of other drugs. (pages 21-37)
* Mexican transnational criminal organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel, remain the greatest criminal drug threat in the United States. The cartels are the principal wholesale drug sources for domestic gangs responsible for street-level distribution. (pages 97-99)
* National and neighborhood-based street gangs and prison gangs continue to dominate the market for the street sales and distribution of illicit drugs in their respective territories throughout the country. Drug trafficking remains the major income source for gangs. (pages 107-121)
According to the Northern District of Oklahoma, new enforcement priorities and programs implemented by the Justice Department and the DEA will positively impact our communities and ultimately save American lives. The Justice Department is targeting the opioid crisis by providing funding and manpower to federal law enforcement agencies, like the DEA, allowing them to conduct enforcement operations that target anyone violating the Controlled Substance Act.
This month, the Justice Department announced new measures to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, creating a Transnational Organized Crime Task Force. The program consists of prosecutors who will coordinate the Department of Justice’s efforts to fight these criminal organizations, including MS-13, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Genercion, the Sinaloa Cartel, Clan del Golfo and Lebanese Hezbollah.
The National Drug Threat Assessment provides a yearly assessment of the many challenges local communities face related to drug abuse and drug trafficking. Highlights in the report include usage and trafficking trends for drugs such as prescription drugs, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and the hundreds of synthetic drugs.
The assessment factors in information from many data sources such as drug seizures, drug purity, laboratory analyses, information on the involvement of organized criminal groups and data provided to DEA by state and local law enforcement agencies across the country. The National Drug Threat Assessment can be accessed here.