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Sheriff Bill Brown joins federal partners on Fentanyl Awareness Day

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown joined United States Attorney Martin Estrada and other federal and local law enforcement agencies to give an update on a number of fentanyl trafficking cases on Fentanyl Awareness Day.

U.S. Attorney Estrada called fentanyl the "most lethal" drug his agency has ever gone up against.

"Fentanyl poisonings are now the number one cause of death for adults in this country 50 years or under."

Estrada says since late November of last year, his office has office has filed 62 cases against defendants who have distributed fentanyl that have caused death or serious bodily injury to another person.

"Many of the victims in these cases did not know that what they were ingesting was fentanyl. Many of the victims in these cases are minors, teenagers, and many of the victims in these cases in fact bought these products on social media."

Special Agent Bill Bodner with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Los Angeles Division, says none of the victims detailed in Tuesday's press conference made the choice to be harmed or to die. Dodner adds they did make the choice to use a drug either recreationally, or due to peer pressure, or because of an ongoing battle with substance use, but none made the choice to be harmed or killed by a drug.

Estrada says he has a clear message to all drug dealers, "we will bring you to justice, and there will be severe consequences."

Estrada adds selling drugs on the street is not the only way fentanyl is being distributed. The FBI led join Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement Team focuses on opioid distributors who use the dark web to distribute deadly products.

"The dark web is intended to conceal illegal activities, but as these cases show, if you're selling, fentanyl will find you."

Estrada says cartels in Mexico have ramped up their production and large amounts of fentanyl are coming into the United States.

"The DEA, working with several local police departments, seized more than 1 million fake pills containing fentanyl. And just to understand the enormity of these amounts, these pills were found in one vehicle and weighed over 240 pounds."

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown highlighted that "the deadly fentanyl epidemic" is not just big city or a big county problem. Sheriff Brown added that Santa Barbara county has an "escalating" problem with fentanyl.

Between 2020 and 2022, fentanyl related deaths tripled in the county. Brown says in just 2023, of the 36 overdose deaths, 29 have been fentanyl related.

Sheriff Bill Brown gave an update on the investigation of the fentanyl related death of one inmate and serious bodily injury of another that happened at the Northern Branch Jail on October 19, 2022.

Following an investigation by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office Special Investigation Bureau alongside the DEA, two inmates have been indicted for smuggling and distributing fentanyl while incarcerated.

During Tuesday's press conference, Sheriff Brown had this to say about the indictments, “Today we send a strong message to those in Santa Barbara County who sell or distribute this poison. It will not be tolerated. If you choose to sell Fentanyl in our communities, you do so at your own risk. The Sheriff’s Office and our federal partners will continue to investigate and prosecute those responsible for fentanyl-related overdose deaths, to the fullest extent of the law.”

Article Topic Follows: Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County
crime and courts
Drug Enforcement Agency
fentanyl awareness day
northern branch jail
Santa Barbara
Sheriff Bill Brown
U. S. Attorney Central District of California Martin Estrada

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