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Tag: opioids

Feds Consider Classifying Fentanyl As Weapon of Mass Destruction

File photo of pills laced with fentanyl.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Fentanyl is so toxic and lethal that the Department of Homeland Security is considering classifying it as a weapon of mass destruction.

The powerful opioid was responsible for 30,000 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The new designation would authorize customs officials and the FBI to inspect more shipments and develop detection tools, The Times reports. Prosecutors also would have more leverage in their fight against the opioid crisis.

Earlier this year, customs officials in Nogales found 254 pounds of fentanyl hidden among cucumbers inside an 18-wheeler. It was the largest fentanyl seizure ever recorded at a port of entry.

Federal Strike Force Busts Dozens of Medical Professionals for Illegal Opioid Prescriptions

FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess is joined by partner agency officials at a press conference in Cincinnati to announce charges against 60 defendants. Photo via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A team of federal investigators and prosecutors made its largest bust to date against illegal opioid prescribers, including dozens of pharmacists, nurse practitioners, doctors, and other medical professionals.

The Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force, which was formed in October, operates in Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Knoxville, Memphis, and Birmingham to take down illegal opioid prescribers in areas hardest hit by the crisis. On Wednesday, the announced charges against 60 defendants, most of whom are medical professionals.

“Using the strike force model, we have now focused our resources on a region of the country which arguably has suffered the most from egregious prescription opioid diversion schemes,” FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess said at news conference Wednesday in Cincinnati, where the charges were announced.

A news release said the medical professionals were “essentially acting as their patients’ drug dealers.”

“The ARPO strike force is going after doctors who act like drug dealers,” said FBI Criminal Investigative Division Health Care Fraud Unit Chief Steven Blaum. “Our focus is on the doctors because the sheer volume of pills they can prescribe can have a significant impact on their communities in terms of access to illicit opioids. By removing just one bad doctor, we can stop the addiction cycle before it starts.”

2 DEA Agents, 8 Sheriff’s Deputies Taken to Hospital for Fentanyl Exposure in Ohio

File photo of pills laced with fentanyl.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Two DEA agents and eight sheriff’s deputies were taken to a hospital in Ohio early Wednesday after they were exposed to the powerful opioid, fentanyl.

The agents and Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s deputies were raiding a home in Rocky River around 5:30 a.m. when they came in contact with fentanyl.

Fentanyl is an increasing danger to law enforcement as more drug dealers use the potentially lethal opioid to make heroin and painkillers more potent.

The deputies and agents were examined and determined to be OK, Cleveland.com reports

During the raid, two young children were at the home, where one man was arrested.

Combating Opioids And Reemergence of Cocaine, Heroin Is Priority for New Head of FBI’s Pittsburgh Office

Bob Jones, new head of the Pittsburgh Field Office

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The opioid crisis and the revival of cocaine and meth in Pennsylvania and West Virginia is the focus of the new head of the FBI’s Pittsburgh office.

Bob Jones, who recently took over the office, said law enforcement has made a dent in the sale of heroin and prescription painkillers, but the crisis if far from over.

“We’ve been knocking opioids down a little bit, but people are turning to other drugs,” he told the Tribune Review.

Jones also is concerned about the troubling reemergence of cocaine and meth and said the opioid epidemic “is still killing people.”

A native of the Pittsburgh area and graduate of Penn State University, Jones said he has “been trying to come back for the last 32 years.”

DEA Creates Omaha Division Office, In Part to Battle Opioids

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The DEA is establishing an Omaha Field Division, its 23rd division office in the nation.

The division will include Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“In January, DEA reorganized its field divisions for the first time in nearly 20 years. Today, just five months later, we are adding another new field division,”  Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “That’s because we are facing a drug threat today the likes of which we have never seen before—but we are rising to the challenge. The Omaha Division will help us address the methamphetamine and opioid threat in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The people of these states can rest assured that, in the face of an unprecedented crisis, we are taking steps to be more effective and put the traffickers and crooked doctors where they belong—behind bars.”

“This action converts the existing Omaha District Office into a division in an effort to enhance DEA enforcement efforts within the Great Plain states region and unify drug trafficking investigations under a single Special Agent in Charge,” said DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson.

Opinion Piece: DEA Has No Clue What It’s Talking About When it Comes to Pot and Opioids

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He is the co-author of the book, Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? and the author of the book, The Citizen’s Guide to State-By-State Marijuana Laws. This piece appears in The Hill.

By Paul Armentano
For The Hill

Is state-level medical cannabis access mitigating or fueling America’s opioid crisis? Testifying before Congress last week, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) acting administrator Robert Patterson claimed the latter. But when he prompted to provide evidence in support of the agency’s position, he acknowledged that he could not.

His failure to substantiate this claim is unsurprising. That is because numerous peer-reviewed studies show that increased cannabis access is associated with declining rates of opioid useabusehospitalizations, and mortality. Among patients enrolled in state-sanctioned medical marijuana access programs, participants’ use of not only opioids, but also their use of numerous other prescription medications — such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs — declines significantly.

To read the full piece click here.

Retired DEA Official Joe Rannazzisi Named ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year For 2017

Joe Rannazzisi (Photo grab from 60 Minutes)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

For the first time since the awards were given in 2008, a former, rather than current federal law enforcement official has been named ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year.

Joe Rannazzisi, a retired DEA deputy assistant administrator with a law degree and a pharmacy degree, has been named Fed of the Year for 2017, the result of his persistent and ongoing crusade against dangerous opioids and his criticism of Congress for protecting manufacturers.

As head of the Office of Diversion Control for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he led the crusade to clamp down on doctors, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and distributors.

He was aggressive, resulting in some of the biggest companies paying huge fines for failing to report suspicious orders. Not everyone was pleased.

He clashed with Congress, which he felt wasn’t being tough enough on drug companies. Some Congress members came after him, and in 2015, under pressure, he retired.

But that didn’t stop him from speaking out.

In October, he appeared in the Washington Post and on “60 Minutes” to tell his story how the DEA’s war on opioids got derailed by pressure from Congress and the drug industry.

He’s also a consultant for a team of lawyers suing the opioid industry.

His efforts in the battle against the opioid epidemic, particularly in light of the powerful opposition on Capitol Hill and from the drug industry, makes him worthy of the award, which is based on outstanding public service.

Previous recipients of the ticklethewire.com Fed of the Year award include: Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (2008):   Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010);  Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011); John G. Perren, who was assistant director of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) Directorate (2012); David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Los Angeles (2013);  Loretta Lynch, who was U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn at the time (2014); John “Jack” Riley,  the DEA’s acting deputy administrator (2015) and D.C.  U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips (2016).

 

DEA: Biggest Opioid Distribution in U.S. History ‘Hijacked’ by Federal Lawyers

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A painstaking, two-year investigation into the biggest opioid distribution case in U.S. history yielded what investigators said was solid evidence that the company had failed to report suspicious orders of highly addictive painkillers.

But instead of bringing big penalties to the first-ever criminal case against a drug distribution company, the nation’s largest company, McKesson Corp., top attorneys at the DEA and Justice Department intervened, striking an agreement that was “far more lenient than the field division wanted,” according to the Washington Post

“This is the best case we’ve ever had against a major distributor in the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration,” said Schiller, who recently retired as assistant special agent in charge of DEA’s Denver field division after a 30-year career with the agency. “I said, ‘How do we not go after the number one organization?’ ”

Schiller called the intervention “insulting.”

“Morale has been broken because of it,” he added.

Helen Kaupang, a DEA investigator and supervisor for 29 years who worked on the McKesson case in Denver, minced no words: “Within the ranks, we feel like our system was hijacked.”

The Post wrote:

The result illustrates the long-standing conflict between drug investigators, who have taken an aggressive approach to a prescription opioid epidemic that killed nearly 200,000 people between 2000 and 2016, and the government attorneys who handle those cases at the DEA and the Justice Department.

None of McKesson’s warehouses would lose their DEA registrations. The company, a second-time offender, had promised in 2008 to be more diligent about the diversion of its pills to the street. It ultimately agreed to temporarily suspend controlled substance shipments at four distribution centers and pay a $150 million fine.