- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2018

The Justice Department has formed a new team to fight online opioid sales, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday.

Dubbed the Joint Criminal Opiod Darknet Enforcement Team, or J-Code, the task force will focus on opioid sales transacted on the darkweb.

According to Mr. Sessions, J-Code will more than double the FBI’s investment in fighting online opioid trafficking. The FBI will also dedicate dozens more special agents, intelligence analysts and professional staff to the team.

The DEA and the Justice Department’s Safe Streets Task Force and Health Care Fraud Special Agents will also work with J-Code.

“Criminals think that they are safe on the darkness, but they are in a rude awakening,” Mr. Sessions said. “We have already infiltrated their networks and we are determined to bring them to justice. In the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in American history, the FBI and the Department of Justice are stepping up our investment in fighting opioid-related crimes.”

In November, the attorney general ordered all 94 U.S. Attorney offices to designate an opioid coordinator who will customize anti-opioid strategies for their districts.

Mr. Sessions announced J-Code’s formation during a speech in Pittsburgh. In 2016, more than 4,000 Pennsylvanians died of a drug overdose, a 37 percent increase from the previous year, Mr. Sessions said. Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, accounted for 650 deaths two years ago.

“It is looking like 2017 will see another increase, but the preliminary data appears to show that the increase will not be as drastic,” Mr. Sessions said. “But as we all know these are not numbers — these are moms, dads, daughters, spouses, friends and neighbors.”

In July 2017, Mr. Sessions orders the creation of a new program to focus specifically on investigating opioid-related health care fraud, known as the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit.

A month later, the Justice Department announced the seizure of the largest darknet marketplace, known as Alpha Bay. The site hosted nearly 220,000 drug listings and was responsible for synthetic opioid overdoses, including the death of a 13-year-old, Mr. Sessions said.

In August, the department formed an Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit to focus specifically on investigating opioid-related health care fraud.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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