The Treasury Department is launching a new fentanyl strike force

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Monday that it has launched a new strike force to combat fentanyl trafficking.

The department made the announcement a day before Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was scheduled to travel to Mexico to meet with government officials and private sector leaders to strengthen the two countries' economic ties.


What you need to know

  • The U.S. Treasury Department announced Monday the launch of a new fentanyl strike force
  • The fentanyl strike force plans to focus on the financial networks of transnational criminal groups
  • Fentanyl trafficking is often disguised as legitimate commercial trafficking, a senior Treasury Department official said
  • The majority of fentanyl entering the US is manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the US through the southern border

“Through this strike force, we will conduct joint analyzes of the financial flows of fentanyl trafficking networks,” a senior Treasury official said Monday at a briefing preparing for the announcement. “We will strengthen operational coordination of both civil and criminal investigations, and we will work with local and federal law enforcement agencies to share information.”

Most of the fentanyl entering the U.S. is manufactured in foreign clandestine labs and smuggled into the U.S. through the southern border, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, fentanyl seizures in the U.S. Mexico border area will be nearly five times higher in 2023 than in 2020.

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and is fatal at a dose of just 2 milligrams. More than 107,000 people in the United States died nationwide from drug overdose deaths in 2022, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Of these, 68% were synthetic opioids, most of which were illegally manufactured fentanyls.

Fentanyl trafficking is often disguised as legitimate commercial trafficking, a senior Treasury Department official said, and poses “a deadly threat” to both the United States and Mexico. The new task force aims to expose and disrupt illicit networks trafficking fentanyl and its chemical precursors by cutting off financial and commercial access.

Two years ago, President Biden signed the Illicit Drug Executive Order, which gave the Treasury Department more authority to combat narcotics trafficking by going after the makers of counterfeit pill presses and precursor chemicals used to produce fentanyl.

The department has imposed 200 sanctions since the executive order was issued, including a transnational criminal organization supplying precursor chemicals that the Treasury Department targeted last week, the official said.

As part of the new task force, the Treasury Department plans to focus on the financial networks of transnational criminal groups, pressuring financial institutions to report suspicious activity.

That reporting “immediately generates leading information for law enforcement” and will help close anti-money laundering regulatory gaps, he said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel to Mexico this week in particular to strengthen economic ties and the supply chain between the US and the country that is now the country's largest trading partner for goods. In addition to meeting with her Mexican counterpart and private sector leaders to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries, she will also meet with government officials and the financial institutions operating south of the border to learn more about the illegal flow of money and drugs and the best strategies to combat this.

“One of the values ​​we will see from these conversations that the secretary will lead is how we can more closely coordinate our respective investigations and actions,” a senior Treasury official said of Yellen's three-day trip.

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