DEA operation seizes 44 million fentanyl pills and exposes cartels’ use of social media

A nationwide operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) called “Operation Last Mile” has resulted in the arrest of 3,337 people and the seizure of $100 million, 8,497 firearms, and large amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Among the seized items were nearly 44 million fentanyl pills, equating to almost 193 million deadly doses of the drug removed from communities across the country.

The operation targeted operatives, associates, and distributors affiliated with the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels responsible for the last mile of fentanyl and methamphetamine distribution on the streets and on social media. The cartels use social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Wire, and Wickr to coordinate logistics and reach out to victims.

According to the DEA, the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels use violent local street gangs and criminal groups and individuals across the United States to flood American communities with huge amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine. This drives addiction, violence, and kills Americans. Anne Milgram, the DEA administrator, said, “The Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels use multi-city distribution networks, violent local street gangs, and individual dealers across the United States to flood American communities with fentanyl and methamphetamine, drive addiction, fuel violence, and kill Americans. What is also alarming is that American social media platforms are the means by which they do so.”

More than 1,100 cases of the investigations involved social media applications and encrypted communications platforms, highlighting the significant role they play in the cartels’ ability to get drugs into American communities. Eddie Garcia, President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said, “As our communities continue to grapple with drug poisonings, the sales of illicit drugs, and the violence that so often accompanies these crimes, our local, state, and federal partnerships have never been more important.”

The nationwide operation demonstrates DEA’s network-based approach to take out Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartel members and associates in the United States and across the globe, stop fentanyl, and save American lives. Sheriff Mike Milstead, Chair of the Drug Enforcement Committee, National Sheriffs’ Association, said, “Arrests focusing on key components of the drug cartel’s illegal drug distribution chain will help all of us in our efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations who are flooding our nation with deadly drugs and violence.”