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Wednesday, October 7, 2020

DEA chief meets with Florida law enforcement, warns of a ’flood of drugs’ into the U.S. when pandemic travel restrictions end

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2020 at 3:34 PM

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U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Acting Administrator Timothy Shea warned Tuesday that the eventual lifting of coronavirus restrictions could bring a flood of methamphetamine and other narcotics from Mexico into the United States.

Shea met in Tallahassee with federal, state and local law-enforcement officials from North Florida and Attorney General Ashley Moody. In part, they held a closed-door meeting about future efforts to confront Mexican transnational criminal organizations that have established networks in areas such as Panama City and Franklin County.

U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe of the Northern District of Florida said he couldn’t go into the details on future enforcement actions that were discussed but called it a “good platform to begin on moving forward.” Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said people pushing drugs must go to prison, but noted a new $3 million wellness center is being built in his community to support those who are “the byproduct” of traffickers.

“A lot of people just don’t realize, and they are thinking that a lot of this stuff is being made in backyards and it’s not,” Smith said. “It’s an organized conspiracy to bring this stuff into our country and to kill a lot of our young people.”

Shea said the U.S.-Mexico border is effectively closed because of the pandemic, which has caused a temporary disruption in the trafficking patterns of cartels. But Shea expects that will change with development of a vaccine for the virus and the eventual lifting of restrictions.

“With a supply stockpile of drugs on the Mexican side and money on the American side, we are preparing, and this is something that we're going to see coming up in the future, the potential flood of drugs into the United States,” Shea said. “That's something that's a concern of ours, but something we're working with our international partners.”

Shea said he was in Mexico last week meeting with government officials to discuss jointly taking on drug cartels. “Virtually all of the methamphetamine and much of the fentanyl in this country comes from Mexico,” Shea said. “These drugs are manufactured on an industrial scale in Mexico using precursor chemicals from China and then smuggled across the border and distributed to every state in the country.”

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