Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control (Drug Caucus) and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today participated in a Drug Caucus hearing on tackling the sprawling international financial networks of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). DTOs have spread counterfeit pills containing fentanyl, fentanyl-related substances and methamphetamine throughout the U.S. at unprecedented levels – with the DEA seizing more than 20 million counterfeit pills in 2021. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, over 80 percent of overdose deaths in Iowa last year were fentanyl-related.
“Following and targeting the money is an important piece of the fight against cartels and the scourge of drug trafficking,” Grassley said. “Our drug crisis has been fueled by the steady flow of deadly drugs, including fentanyl, across our borders.
“Precursor chemicals for lethal drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine are produced in China and shipped to Mexico, where Mexican cartels make the fentanyl. The deadly drugs are then taken across our southwest border where they’re distributed throughout our land. This triangle of death among China, Mexico and the United States shows that organized drug traffickers don’t respect or stop at international borders in pushing their deadly trades,” Grassley added.
The spread of deadly fentanyl has hit close to home. In Iowa, five people were recently charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in Cass and Shelby counties. In May, a Sioux City man was arrested after police found 1.5 pounds of fentanyl-laced pills. Nearly a year ago, a young Iowa student overdosed and died after unknowingly taking a counterfeit pill laced with fentanyl.
During today’s hearing, Grassley discussed several of his efforts that target dangerous drug trafficking organizations, including the Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Counterfeiting Act of 2022. This bipartisan proposal seeks to strengthen criminal money laundering statutes by giving federal law enforcement the tools needed to keep pace with new and emerging techniques that criminals are using to conceal and transport dirty money. Grassley also discussed the Drone Act of 2022, another bipartisan proposal he is leading that would provide additional tools to fight cartels that use drones, including weaponized drones, to fly deadly drugs over the southern border.
Last week, Grassley urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to utilize its full authority to help halt the spread of deadly counterfeit pills. In May, Grassley introduced a bipartisan and bicameral proposal, the Stop Pills That Kill Act, which seeks to ensure that existing penalties for possessing paraphernalia used to manufacture methamphetamine would also apply to possessing paraphernalia used to make counterfeit pills that contain methamphetamine, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues. Last month, during a hearing on the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) 2022 Drug Control Strategy, Grassley raised concerns that the strategy largely ignores the proliferation of counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl and meth.
In the 12-month period ending October 2021, more than 105,000 Americans died from drug overdoses. Nearly 69,000 of those deaths involved fentanyl. In the 12-month period ending April 2021, fentanyl was the leading cause of deaths for Americans aged 18 to 45. Just one kilogram of fentanyl can kill 500,000 people, making it 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).