I-TEAM: Newly introduced bipartisan bill takes aim at stopping fentanyl supply chain

COLUMBUS — Congress is working on a plan to fight fentanyl in our communities with a new bill that Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is a co-sponsor of.

When the I-Team’s John Bedell talked to Brown (D-Ohio) and law enforcement in Columbus Thursday, they said the fight against drug traffickers is one they can’t arrest their way out of. They know they have to hit criminal organizations where it really hurts, which is in their bank accounts.

In Franklin County, leaders said the rate of overdose deaths quadrupled from 2014 to 2020.

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“This coincides with the rise in synthetic opioids, which fentanyl is the most common as a major contributor to overdose deaths,” Sue Villilo, with the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County, said.

Deputies said the key to stopping the deadly trend is cutting off the cash flow to drug trafficking organizations.

“Once you’re able to limit the amount of money that they make, sanction that, it does have a trickle effect in the amount of drugs that they can manufacture and ship,” Chief Deputy Rick Minerd, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, said.

That is partly what the bipartisan Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act would do to chemical suppliers in China and the drug cartels in Mexico who smuggle fentanyl into the United States.

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“It would direct the Treasury Department to target, sanction, target, sanction, and block the assets of transnational criminal organizations,” Brown said.

On Wednesday, the I-Team reported that most of the packages of fentanyl shipped to Ohio are from border states like California and Arizona.

“Cartels are utilizing the mail system,” Jason Schumacher, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Cincinnati Drug Enforcement Administration, said.

The I-Team learned that Ohio leads the nation for the number of packages of fentanyl intercepted by the United States Postal Service in the last three years. Given the I-Team’s findings, Bedell asked Brown what the FEND Off Fentanyl Act does to prevent fentanyl from moving through the mail.

“This is an all-above approach. It means getting resources to the Sheriff and to the chief deputy and this department and city police,” Brown answered.

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