Law enforcement partnerships on West Coast crucial to disrupting fentanyl trade to Hawaii
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Law enforcement at all levels in California are working to catch drug smugglers before the deadly products can be shipped out, including to Hawaii.
Fentanyl and meth are made in labs in Mexico.
But once through the San Ysidro crossing, much of it moves north to Los Angeles.
HNN Investigates spent a week on the west coast with various agencies that are trying to stop the drug pipeline to paradise.
“This is a trans-shipment center ... so here in LA, we bear the brunt of the drug issues,” said William Bodner, special agent in charge of the DEA Los Angeles office.
The DEA and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program are combining forces to try to find the major suppliers, which often starts with lower level operations.
A task force of federal and state agents make up Group 48, a team of undercover officers who make record-breaking buys of narcotics online then arrest the sellers.
HNN Investigates was at one of those buy-bust operations recently in downtown L.A.
“We got a target that’s supposed to come out, originally bring 1,000 pills for $2,500 followed by another 2,000 pills,” an agent told the group.
“After he brings out the 2000 pills, we’re going to attempt a takedown.”
The man who was meeting the officer was wearing a glove on one hand, which led the group to believe he was handling fentanyl.
This exchange didn’t go as planned so the team moved in earlier than scheduled.
The agents recovered two small bags that fell on the ground during a pat down.
It wasn’t the large seizure the crew was hoping for — but the 23 suspected fentanyl pills and small bag of cocaine are off the streets, a small victory.
More importantly, the crew can now work to find the person above the male on the drug pyramid.
“He’s definitely working for somebody way above,” one agent told HNN Investigates.
Takedowns like that one require patience, but they can pay off.
Also in this series:
Last year, Group 48 seized nearly one million fake prescription pills containing fentanyl a historic bust that the DEA said saved lives.
Buy-bust operations happen in Hawaii and can also provide valuable information about drug trends.
“To identify the networks that are operating on the islands,” said Anthony Chrysanthis, deputy special agent in charge of the DEA Los Angeles office.
“We want to go after their infrastructure at all levels. We mainly want to see who is responsible for shipping that drugs, how’s it getting to Hawaii.”
COMING UP: In Part 3 of this series, airing Wednesday, HNN Investigates uncovers the myriad ways that drugs are getting to the islands.
Copyright 2023 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.