Fentanyl Coast to Coast: Drugs Flow into Local Communities through the Mail

Washington, D.C. (February 11, 2020) Weeks into the new year, illegal drugs—particularly fentanyl—continue to travel around the country and into local communities through the mail.  A major law passed in October 2018 gives Congress the ability to properly screen packages and discourage drug traffickers from using the postal system. However, over a year after the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act was signed into law, it still has not been enforced. Local news stories showcase the prevalence of mail order fentanyl and other drugs being shipped through the mail as a major challenge to keep our communities safe.

On the West Coast, federal authorities in Southern California arrested 16 people in connection to a drug ring that shipped cocaine and other illegal narcotics from post offices in Riverside and San Bernardino through the mail to New York, Ohio, Michigan and South Carolina.

The Midwest is frequently a popular destination for drugs in the mail. In Columbus, Indiana, a woman was recently arrested for dealing narcotics after mailing prescription drugs to her ex-husband’s place of employment with the specific goal of getting him in trouble. In a multi-state investigation based in Iowa, drug traffickers transported $2 million of drugs–including over 200 pounds of methamphetamine, 50,000 fentanyl pills and over 22 pounds of heroin–though the United States Postal Service (USPS) and subterranean tunnels. And federal investigations based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, known as “Operation Island Hopper” and “Operation Tire Iron Press,” revealed the trafficking of large amounts of cocaine, heroin and fentanyl. Dependent on the postal system to transport their drugs without oversight, suspects in these cases boldly called the USPS with tracking numbers to inquire about the status and locations of their packages.

On the East Coast, New York officials believe that an unknown substance that sent 11 people from a Northern New York prison to the hospital was fentanyl that arrived at the prison through the mail. And a man in Pennsylvania was arrested for mailing multiple packages containing fentanyl to his girlfriend in Seattle. One day after the packages arrived, his girlfriend died of an overdose of drugs, including fentanyl.

The STOP Act requires the postal service provide Customs and Border Protection with the advance electronic data (AED) needed to screen international packages for fentanyl and other dangerous materials. Congress needs to give federal agencies the necessary resources to use AED to screen all packages for illegal and dangerous drugs to prevent them from coming into and around the United States.

“The prevalence of fentanyl and other drugs in the mail system cannot be ignored, said Juliette Kayyem, senior advisor to Americans for Securing All Packages. “Full enforcement of the STOP Act would break down the path of drugs through the mail and into our communities around the entire country. Congress must take action to ensure the path is shut down now.”