U.S. Attorney’s Office and Department of Justice Announce Results of Efforts to Reduce Fentanyl Supply and Prosecute Fentanyl Traffickers

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

INDIANAPOLIS – Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, and the Justice Department, announced today the results of an enforcement operation that spanned from May to September and resulted in significant fentanyl seizures across the United States.

As part of the One Pill Can Kill initiative, the DEA and its law enforcement partners seized more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder during the period of May 23 through Sept. 8, 2022. The amount of fentanyl taken off the streets nationwide during this surge is equivalent to more than 36 million lethal doses removed from the illegal drug supply. Additionally, 338 weapons were seized, including rifles, shotguns, pistols, and hand grenades.

Of the 390 cases investigated during this period nationwide, 51 cases are linked to overdose poisonings and 35 cases link directly to one or both of the primary Mexican cartels responsible for the majority of fentanyl in the United States – the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). In addition, 129 investigations are linked to social media platforms, including Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and TikTok. These results build upon the One Pill Can Kill Phase II results announced by DEA Administrator Anne Milgram in December 2021.

“Drug overdose deaths touch every Hoosier—our families, our friends, our children. These tragedies are overwhelmingly driven by trafficking of fentanyl and other deadly opioids,” said Zachary A. Myers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “Fentanyl is concealed in everything from fake pharmaceuticals to rainbow candy-colored pills, and even within other controlled substances. The cartels and drug traffickers push these poisonous chemicals into our communities with utter disregard for human life. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will work with our partners in the DEA and throughout federal, state, and local law enforcement, to reduce the supply of these deadly drugs and hold fentanyl traffickers accountable.”

“Far too many lives have been lost across Indiana from drug overdoses and poisonings involving fake pills laced with fentanyl,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Gannon, DEA Indianapolis. “DEA is committed to working hand-in-hand with our state, local and federal partners to bring drug cartels to justice. We will also continue raising awareness about the dangers of fake pills through the ‘One Pill Can Kill’ campaign.”

“Across the country, fentanyl is devastating families and communities, and we know that violent, criminal drug cartels bear responsibility for this crisis,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department, including the extraordinary professionals of the DEA, is working to disrupt and dismantle the operations of these cartels, remove deadly fentanyl from our communities, and save Americans’ lives.”

“For the past year, confronting the fentanyl crisis has been the top priority for DEA. The most urgent threat to our communities, our kids, and our families are the Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG who are mass producing and supplying the fentanyl that is poisoning and killing Americans,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG are ruthless, criminal organizations that use deception and treachery to drive addiction with complete disregard for human life. To save American lives, the DEA is relentlessly focused on defeating the Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG by degrading their operations to make it impossible for them to do business.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana has led the prosecution of numerous individuals charged with or convicted of fentanyl trafficking, including:

  • Nyron Harmon, 31, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison on September 27, 2022, for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
  • Arcinial Montreal Watt, 34, and Jazmynn Alaina Brown, 24, both of Evansville, Indiana, were charged by superseding indictment on September 22, 2022, for conspiring to distribute fentanyl resulting in the death of a three-year-old girl and causing a one-year-old to be hospitalized and administered NARCAN, both due to fentanyl overdoses.
  • Julius Johnson, 44, of Indianapolis, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on August 16, 2022, for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl, carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
  • Keith Jones, a/k/a “Keybo,” 56, of Indianapolis, was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 7, 2022, for allegedly leading a drug trafficking organization that conspired to distribute large amounts of fentanyl and other controlled substances. Twenty other individuals are also charged in relation to the drug trafficking conspiracy.
  • Ethan Parker, 29, and Joshua Harvey, 30, both of Evansville, Indiana, were indicted by a federal grand jury on June 24, 2022, for manufacturing fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills using a pill press and conspiring to distribute fentanyl-laced pills.

Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this nation. In 2021, a record number of Americans – 107,622 – died from a drug poisoning or overdose. Sixty-six percent of those deaths can be attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. According to the Indiana Department of Health, 2,554 Hoosiers died of drug overdoses in 2021 and over 70% of the deaths were caused by fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Between January 1 and August 1, 2022, over 2,500 Hoosiers have been lost to drug overdoses, the vast majority from fentanyl and similar drugs.

Drug traffickers have expanded their inventory to sell fentanyl in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes. Rainbow fentanyl was first reported to DEA in February 2022, and it has now been seized in 21 states, including in the Southern District of Indiana.  

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, or the amount that could fit on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially lethal dose.

As part of DEA’s ongoing efforts to educate the public and encourage parents and caregivers to talk to teens and young adults about the dangers of fake pills and illicit drugs, DEA has also created a new resource, “What Every Parent and Caregiver Needs to Know About Fake Pills.”

In September 2021, DEA launched the One Pill Can Kill enforcement effort and public awareness campaign to combat the fake pill threat and educate the public about the dangers of fentanyl pills being disguised and sold as prescription medications, despite these pills not containing any of the actual medications advertised. The only safe medications are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist. All other pills are unsafe and potentially deadly.

Additional resources for parents and the community can be found on the DEA’s Fentanyl Awareness page.