Authorities have arrested 35 suspects and seized enough fentanyl to kill 14 million people during a huge three-state drug bust, reports said.
The operation, dubbed “Operation Cookout,” spanned three states including Virginia, North Carolina, and Texas. Officials recovered 66 pounds of fentanyl and heroin, 11 pounds of cocaine, 24 firearms, and more than $700,000 cash reportedly shipped from Mexico, California, and New York.
On Thursday, G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, praised the efforts of law enforcement officers for their role in the operation.
This massive interdiction of narcotics, which included enough fentanyl to kill over 14 million people, is proof positive of the power and strength of federal, state, and local law enforcement collaboration. The 39 charged defendants are just that—charged—and remain innocent unless and until proven otherwise.
This operation, through its seizure of scores of kilograms of illicit narcotics, saved lives in the Eastern District and elsewhere. Any day where we can do that is particularly meaningful and impactful. An incredible thank you to our dedicated law enforcement partners and prosecutors.
More than 120 law enforcement officers from agencies inside the three states took part in the arrest of the suspects, according to the Daily Mail.
Reports said that along with the intent to distribute the illegal substances, charges against the alleged offenders also include “conspiracy to launder money; felon in possession of a firearm; maintaining a drug-involved premises; use of a communication facility in furtherance of drug trafficking; interstate travel in aid of racketeering enterprises; and illegal re-entry by a previously deported or removed alien,” according to ABC 13.
There are a total of 39 defendants involved in the case, and reports said the majority of the alleged criminal activity took place in Hampton Roads, Virginia.
The press release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice stated that the suspects reportedly used telecommunication devices such as “pre-paid cell phones, Facebook, and encrypted communications apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp to conduct the day-to-day operations, including negotiating prices, and arranging locations for purchasing and selling the drugs.”
Reports allege the suspects also used hidden compartments inside their vehicles to smuggle the illegal drugs.
Jesse R. Fong, Special Agent in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Washington Field Division, said the administration will continue its efforts to stop criminal activity in the area.
“The DEA will continue to prioritize operations like this one, which target the criminal organizations that bring dangerous drugs and violence into our communities here in Virginia. We stand united with our outstanding federal, state, and local law enforcement counterparts in this endeavor,” Fong concluded.