'Enough fentanyl to kill over 14 million people' seized in 3-day drug bust, officials say

Credit: L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

Credit: L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

Authorities arrested dozens of people this week and seized tens of kilograms of illicit substances, including fentanyl, heroin and cocaine, as part of a multi-state drug operation spanning three states.

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Justice Department officials said Thursday that officers from 30 law enforcement agencies in Virginia, North Carolina and Texas seized two dozen firearms, 30 kilograms of fentanyl, 30 kilograms of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine and more than $700,000 in cash as part of Operation Cookout.

"This massive interdiction of narcotics, which included enough fentanyl to kill over 14 million people, is proof positive of the power and strength of federal, state and local law enforcement collaboration," said U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger, of the Eastern District of Virginia.

The operation launched after a federal grand jury handed down a 106-count indictment Aug. 14. In the indictment, 39 people were accused of participating in a large-scale drug trafficking operation that began in March 2016. Prosecutors said the defendants were accused of a variety of drug-related crimes, including conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, heroin, cocaine base and fentanyl and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

The defendants allegedly bought narcotics from suppliers in Mexico, California and New York and arranged for the drugs to be taken to Virginia using hidden traps in privately owned vehicles, couriers, semi-trailers, trucks and recreational vehicles, according to authorities.

“The narcotics organization identified by our team reached far and wide, spanning state lines and crossing all the way to and from our southern border,” said Michael K. Lamonea, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Norfolk, Virginia.

Terwilliger told CBS News the arrests also included a person who ordered fentanyl from Shanghai to Virginia.

Authorities said Thursday that 35 of the 39 people named in the Aug. 14 indictment had been apprehended.

The bust marked the largest in Virginia in 15 years, according to CBS News.

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