A little over two weeks ago, I announced that the Justice Department had taken significant enforcement actions against the largest, most violent, and most prolific fentanyl trafficking operation in the world: the Sinaloa Cartel.
I said then that the Justice Department is doing everything in our power, and using every authority we have, to bring those responsible for the fentanyl epidemic to justice.
That includes holding accountable the drug traffickers who use the dark web to commit their crimes.
Drug traffickers are increasingly turning to the dark web to sell illegal drugs in exchange for cryptocurrency. They may advertise their drugs on darknet marketplaces as brand name pharmaceuticals. But in reality, the pills are often counterfeit and laced with fentanyl.
The drug traffickers are confident that, by operating anonymously on the dark web, they can operate outside the bounds of the law.
They are wrong.
I am joined today by FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, DEA Principal Deputy Administrator Lou Milione, Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale, IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee, and FDA Investigative Services Division Chief Daniel Burke.
We are here today to announce the results of an unprecedented international enforcement operation led by the FBI – known as Operation SpecTor – against traffickers of fentanyl and other drugs who operate on the dark web.
Operation SpecTor was a coordinated international law enforcement effort, spanning three continents, to disrupt drug trafficking on the dark web.
It involved agencies across the federal government, along with our partners at Europol and Eurojust, and law enforcement agencies in eight foreign countries. It was led by the Department’s Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement – or JCODE – team.
Across the U.S. and eight other countries, Operation SpecTor resulted in a total of 288 arrests and the seizure of 117 illegal firearms, 850 kilograms of drugs, and $53.4 million dollars in cash and cryptocurrency.
This represents the most funds seized and the highest number of arrests in any coordinated international action led by the Justice Department against drug traffickers on the dark web.
Here in the United States, our Operation SpecTor investigations involved the FBI, DEA, ATF, and more than 30 U.S. Attorneys’ offices – as well as our partners at other federal agencies.
In the United States, we arrested 153 defendants, seized 104 illegal guns, and seized over 200,000 pills, including those containing fentanyl.
To give just three examples of the cases that made up this massive operation since it began in October 2021:
In the Central District of California, a defendant was charged with drug and weapons offenses for his role in leading an organization that obtained bulk fentanyl; operated labs that used high-speed pill presses to create pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine; and sold millions of pills to thousands of customers on the darknet.
In the Southern District of Florida, we secured the conviction of an individual who distributed narcotics, including fentanyl, on various dark web marketplaces. That defendant possessed a list of over 6,000 customers across the United States.
And in the Eastern District of California, two individuals were charged with drug and money laundering offenses for their role in selling tens of thousands of counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl in exchange for cryptocurrency on the dark web.
I am extremely grateful to the agents, prosecutors, analysts, and staff across the Department who participated in this operation –including the FBI and its JCODE team, the DEA and ATF, our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and OCDETF, and multiple sections of the Criminal Division – including the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, the Fraud Section, and the Office of International Affairs.
I also want to thank our partners across the federal government for their assistance in this operation – including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the FDA Office of Investigations, and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
I am likewise grateful to our partners at Europol and Eurojust, and to our law enforcement partners in Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland – without whom this operation would not have been possible.
The Justice Department is cracking down on criminal cryptocurrency transactions and the online criminal marketplaces that enable them.
In 2021, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the results of another international operation, Operation DarkHunTor, which involved the arrests of 150 Darknet drug traffickers and the seizure of $32 [million] in cash and cryptocurrencies.
Last year, together with our German law enforcement partners, we seized Hydra Market, the world’s largest and longest-running illegal marketplace on the dark web.
Earlier this year, we led a coordinated international operation against Genesis Market, a major criminal marketplace that enabled cybercriminals to victimize individuals, businesses, and governments around the world.
And today, we have announced an unprecedented international enforcement action against drug traffickers on the dark web.
This work will continue.
Our message to criminals on the dark web is this: You can try to hide in the furthest reaches of the internet, but the Justice Department will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes.
The Justice Department, together with our American and international partners, will continue to disrupt and dismantle darknet markets.
We will continue to illuminate the dark web. And we will bring to justice those who try to hide their crimes there. I am now pleased to turn the podium over to FBI Deputy Director Abbate.