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Sunday, February 5th, 2023

FBI leads enforcement actions to disrupt online opioid sales

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led an enforcement action, called Operation Disarray, last week that led to hundreds of interactions and arrests of individuals involved in the online sale of opiates.

The operation, the first of its kind to occur at the same time in all 50 states, was part of a broader Department of Justice initiative to disrupt the sale of opioids online.

“The point of Operation Disarray is to put drug traffickers on notice: Law enforcement is watching when people buy and sell drugs online,” Special Agent Chris Brest said. “For those who think the Darknet provides anonymity, you are mistaken.”

Users can access darknet marketplaces through software that claims to make the buyer and seller anonymous. The sites allow individuals to easily buy narcotics online.

“Drug trafficking is changing,” Brest said. “The environment is moving from real-world to the virtual realm, and it’s on the rise.”

The operation was designed, in part, to highlight risks for buyers and sellers, the FBI said. Leads from the investigation identified 19 overdose deaths of persons of interest.

Hundreds of FBI agents and federal partners, including personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Postal Inspection Service participated in the operation by conducting searches, making arrests and carrying out “knock and talks” with individuals known to have bought or sold drugs through darknet marketplaces.

“We wanted to get the word out about the potential dangers of the drugs people are purchasing and to remind them that law enforcement is very cognizant of this activity,” Special Agent Eric Yingling, who specializes in Darknet investigations from the FBI’s Pittsburgh Division, said.