In announcing the operation and its arrests, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, "Our message to criminals on the dark web is this: You can try to hide in the furthest reaches of the Internet, but the Justice Department will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes." File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
May 2 (UPI) -- The Justice Department on Tuesday announced 228 arrests and the seizure of more than a hundred guns in a "record-breaking" joint law-enforcement operation targeting fentanyl and opioid traffic on the dark web.
The department also said it confiscated $53 million in cash and virtual currencies, as well as 850 kilograms of drugs that included 64 kilograms of fentanyl or fentanyl-laced narcotics.
The law enforcement action, dubbed "Operation SpecTor" by the Justice Department, was conducted by the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team, composed of multiple government agencies.
"Operation SpecTor was a coordinated international effort spanning three continents to disrupt fentanyl and opioid trafficking on the darknet, or dark web," the Justice Department said in the statement.
Taking part in the operation: the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. postal inspectors; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; the Internal Revenue Service; and Homeland Security. Working alongside these agencies was international law-enforcement partners in Austria, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Britain, Brazil, Poland, and Switzerland.
"The operation was conducted across the United States, Europe, and South America, and was a result of the continued partnership between JCODE and foreign law enforcement against the illegal sale of drugs and other illicit goods and services on the darknet," the Justice Department said.
The Justice Department says it seized "117 firearms, 850 kilograms of drugs that include 64 kilograms of fentanyl or fentanyl-laced narcotics, and $53 million in cash and virtual currencies."
"Our message to criminals on the dark web is this: You can try to hide in the furthest reaches of the Internet, but the Justice Department will find you and hold you accountable for your crimes," said Attorney General Merrick Garland.
"The availably of dangerous substances like fentanyl on dark net marketplaces is helping to fuel the crisis that has claimed far too many American lives," he continued. "We will continue to illuminate the dark web and we will bring to justice those who try to hide their crimes there."
The Justice Department highlighted three prosecutions from Operation SpecTor in their press release.
Anton Peck, 29, of Boca Raton, Fla., was sentenced to 16 years in prison for "conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances, including fentanyl, methamphetamine, and heroin" on Dec. 1.
Christopher Hampton, 36, of Cerritos, Calif., was indicted on 11 counts for "various narcotics and weapons offenses that could result in a sentence of life in prison" on Nov. 18.
Devlin Hosner, 33, and Holly Adams, 31, both of Indigo, Calf., were indicted for "conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute fentanyl and methamphetamine and with conspiracy to launder money" on May 12.
In April, the White House designated fentanyl laced with xylazine as an "emerging threat." Xylazine is a drug the FDA has approved for use in animals but not humans.
The DEA says xylazine-positive overdoses have drastically increased across the United States.