DOJ Orders Largest Crackdown Operation In Years

On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that 288 people have been arrested over 1,800 pounds of drugs seized as part of a years-long international operation targeting darknet drug traffickers in eight countries, CBS News reported.

The international law enforcement effort known as Operation SpecTor began in October 2021, targeting dealers in the United States, Europe, and South America.

According to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Operation SpecTor was the largest international operation to date to crack down on online drug trafficking.

The Justice Department, working with international law enforcement partners, seized 1,874 pounds of drugs, including over 140 pounds of fentanyl or fentanyl-laced drugs, along with $53.4 million in cryptocurrency and cash.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Attorney General Garland said the message to darknet criminals is that the Justice Department “will find you and hold you accountable” even if they “try to hide in the furthest reaches of the internet.”

In the United States, law enforcement made 153 arrests in the operation and seized over 200,000 fentanyl-laced narcotics, Garland said.

During Operation SpecTor, federal investigations targeted both criminals on the darknet and the proliferation of fentanyl in the US.

In 2022, the FBI took down Hydra, the world’s largest darknet marketplace for stolen identities and drugs, seizing the servers. According to investigators, Hydra allowed users in primarily Russian-speaking countries to launder money and trade goods and services.

In April, federal prosecutors unsealed the criminal charges brought against 28 members of the Sinaloa Cartel, including the three sons of infamous drug lord El Chapo, for orchestrating a fentanyl trafficking operation in the United States.

According to FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, 16 FBI field offices and 30 US Attorney Offices took part in Operation SpecTor. Abbate described darknet websites as “one-stop shopping” for drug lords and criminals.

Despite the involvement of drug cartels in Mexico, the US’s southern neighbor was not among the countries participating in Operation SpecTor. Attorney General Garland said in Tuesday’s press conference that the United States needs Mexico to cooperate “in all kinds of manners.”