U.S. Treasury Department launches new fentanyl trafficking strike force

WASHINGTON – As the United States confronts its deadliest drug epidemic to date, the White House has established a new initiative to target the financial roots of fentanyl trafficking. On Monday the Treasury Department unveiled the Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force, which will bring together personnel, intelligence, expertise, and resources from throughout the department to focus on fentanyl. The announcement comes as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen travels to Mexico this week to meet with government officials and discuss fentanyl trafficking, supply chains and trade.

“The Treasury Department’s Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force will allow us to bring the department’s unrivaled expertise in fighting financial crime to bear against this deadly epidemic,” said Yellen in a press release.

Officials say that there’s a strong connection between money laundering and drug trafficking. In fact, the Treasury has imposed almost 250 sanctions on people and entities believed to be involved in trafficking illicit drugs. Earlier this year, Emily’s Hope reported on some of those sanctions, including those against members of Mexico’s influential Sinaloa drug cartel, as well as firms located in Sonora, Mexico.

“Partnerships are key to the work we do at IRS Criminal Investigation, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with our Treasury counterparts to combat fentanyl – one of the deadliest narcotics plaguing our country,” said co-chair CI Chief Jim Lee. “To date, our team has played a key role in sanctioning and bringing criminal charges against individuals and entities involved in fentanyl trafficking, and we look forward to using our financial expertise to further disrupt the flow of fentanyl into the United States.”

In addition to using financial intelligence to uncover transnational criminal organizations, the force will also implement additional sanctions and other disruptive actions. It will also collaborate with local and federal law enforcement, sharing financial leads and intelligence, and coordinating on specific cases, particularly in regions most severely impacted by the opioid epidemic.

The force plans to collaborate with Mexico and Canada through the North American Drug Dialogue to counter illicit fentanyl. This initiative follows President Biden’s recent agreement with China’s leader to resume cooperation on counternarcotics, with a specific focus on reducing the flow of precursor chemicals fueling illicit fentanyl and synthetic drug trafficking.