Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good morning. I am pleased to be joined today by FBI Director Christopher Wray, DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea, ICE Acting Deputy Director Derek Benner, and Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.
This morning, the Department is joining its partners in the United States and Europe to announce the results of Operation DisrupTor. Operation DisrupTor is the United States Government’s largest operation to date targeting criminal activity on the Darknet, particularly opioid trafficking. Over the past months, the United States and its partners across the globe have worked together to deal a powerful blow to this criminal underworld.
The trafficking of opioids is a national crisis of daunting proportions, which poses a major danger to the American people. It is devastating our communities and our families. According to the CDC, over 67,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in 2018. That’s over 1,000 people dead each week – 1,000 lost parents, children, friends, and family members. That is more deaths than occur from car accidents. For Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now among the leading causes of death.
For an increasing number of young addicts, opioids are purchased not from local dealers, but from pushers operating online. Hiding behind anonymizing software known as Tor, a new sort of drug kingpin now is able to reach more buyers than ever before, through online marketplaces peddling every sort of illicit good and service imaginable. These “Darknet marketplaces” have grown in popularity at an alarming rate and allow drug traffickers to openly advertise and take orders from anywhere in the world. The Darknet invites criminals into our homes, and provides unlimited access to illegal commerce.
Operation DisrupTor is the Department’s latest effort to combat the scourge of opioid trafficking on the Darknet. Activities here resulted in almost 120 arrests and the seizure of over 270 kilograms of drugs, including 17 kilograms of lethal fentanyl and 96 kilograms of methamphetamine. Additionally, U.S. law enforcement worked in conjunction with counterparts in Europe and Canada on this investigation, which resulted in more than 50 additional arrests.
Operation DisrupTor was coordinated by the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team, also known as JCODE. Cases were worked in more than 20 different U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country. The operation was supported by numerous components at Main Justice, including the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, and the Department’s Office of International Affairs. Among the cases:
- Law enforcement in the Southern District of Ohio shut down one of the most prolific online drug trafficking organizations in the United States, which operated using the moniker “Pill Cosby.” Members of the group were charged with manufacturing and distributing over one million fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills.
- Here in the District of Columbia, a grand jury charged a Costa Rican pharmacist who knowingly supplied large amounts of drugs to a dark web trafficker, sending a strong message that unscrupulous doctors and pharmacists who fuel the opioid epidemic will be held accountable – even if they operate overseas.
- The Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the narcotics vendor “NeverPressedRX,” who was so intent on securing his online criminal enterprise that he conspired to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy.
- Law enforcement in the Central District of California, successfully dismantled a drug trafficking organization that used online monikers such as “Stealthgod” to sell methamphetamine and MDMA on multiple Darknet marketplaces. Investigators have linked the crew to more than 18,000 illicit sales to customers in at least 35 states and in numerous countries around the world.
- In the Northern District of Georgia, an investigation into the murder of an elderly couple found brutally murdered in their home led investigators to a man who used the Darknet to purchase sensitive information stolen from numerous elderly victims, including the murdered couple.
A number of additional investigations are still ongoing.
There will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.
Today’s announcement is very much a success story in international law enforcement cooperation, as crime on the Darknet is truly a global problem that requires global partnership. However, the global nature of the threat also means that foreign countries who fail to act can easily become safe harbors for criminals who seek to pump lethal, addictive drugs into the United States from abroad. The Department cannot and will not allow criminals to operate with impunity.
This Operation marks a significant milestone in the fight against crime on the Darknet. But there is more to do, and more to come. Keeping the American people safe is the Department’s highest priority. The Department will not relent in our efforts to combat this evil plaguing our society, and we will bring to justice those who seek to profit from the destruction of human lives.