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30,000 Fentanyl pills trafficked by Mexican drug cartel seized by Interior Department Law Enforcement Task Force on Opioids

PRESS RELEASES

The Joint Task Force to Combat Opioids in Indian Country netted $700,000 in illegal and controlled substances in operations in four Border States

Date: March 15, 2019

Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov

WASHINGTON – Today, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior David Bernhardt announced the Department’s Joint Task Force on Opioid Reduction seized approximately 30,000 fentanyl pills and more than a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of other illegal drugs during a recent operation in Arizona. This operation was related to a Bureau of Indian Affairs Drug Enforcement joint investigation into large amounts of fentanyl pills from a Mexican drug trafficking organization being transported into the U.S. through Points of Entry located on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

“President Trump is committed to combating the opioid crisis and making America’s border communities safer, and our first-of-its-kind joint Task Force is delivering on that commitment,” said Acting Secretary Bernhardt. “The law enforcement officers of the Joint Task Force, led by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is doing incredible work to keep Tribal communities safe from the deadly and illegal drugs pouring in from Mexico. I commend them all for their hard work and for putting themselves in harm’s way to keep others safe.”

“The Joint Task Force has enabled the Department and Indian Affairs to fulfill one of our primary missions, to insure safe and healthy Indian communities,” said Tara Sweeney, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. “These criminals endanger our children and families, and I am very proud of the hard and dangerous work that our Office of Justice Services agents are doing as part of the Task Force.”

The operation was conducted by BIA Drug Agents and the NATIVE Task Force, along with Department of Security Investigations Special Response Team and Arizona Department of Public Safety. They conducted a buy/bust operation related to a BIA Drug Enforcement joint investigation where an undercover operative successfully purchased approximately 30,000 fentanyl pills (opioids) from the drug organization. This operation was related to a joint drug investigation that began along the southwest border on the Tohono O'odham reservation. During the operation, three non-Indian subjects were taken into custody without incident. One subject was found to be in possession of a pistol during the incident.

The Joint Task Force on Opioid Reduction was formed in 2018 in response to President Donald J. Trump’s commitment to ending the opioid crisis. It is led by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services in coordination with State, local, Tribal and other Federal partners. In the first year, Joint Task Force Operations in Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, Washington, Montana, and other states have led to the seizure of millions of dollars’ worth of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs, and hundreds of arrests and indictments.

Recent Successes

New Mexico - A Bureau of Indian Affairs K-9 unit was patrolling the interstate on the Laguna Pueblo when he conducted a traffic stop. Upon searching the vehicle, the BIA K-9 officer detected several packages containing more than $230,000 worth of marijuana and THC Concentrate.

Arizona – In February, the Opioid Task Force conducted a Criminal Interdiction Operation focused on areas known for high drug trafficking in and around the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. The DOI Opioid Task Force consisted of Special Agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Division of Drug Enforcement and BIA K-9 uniformed officers, the San Carlos Apache Police Department, and the Bureau of Land Management. This operation capped a lengthy, two phased enforcement effort aimed at dismantling and disrupting the drug distribution networks targeting the San Carlos Apache Reservation. These investigations resulted in the combined purchase and seizure of approximately 417 grams of methamphetamine – estimated street value of $27,060 – which ultimately resulted in eighteen Federal Indictments.

Washington - A February 28 operation on the Spokane Reservation in Washington also resulted in the seizure of more than $200,000 worth of heroin and methamphetamine and two non-Indian subjects were arrested. On March 13, 2019, BIA Drug Enforcement, DEA, US Border Patrol and Mattawa Police Department seized approximately 2,107 grams (4.6 pounds) of methamphetamine from a residence known to be a source of supply to reservations in Washington State. The illegal narcotics seized had an estimated street value of approximately $105,350.