Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the United States Attorney’s Office recently announced the creation of, and first case brought by, the newly formed Fentanyl Abatement and Suppression Team in partnership with the District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the FBI.
Formed in September, the group known as “FAST,” is a multi-agency task force led by HSI in conjunction with state and local agencies to target significant fentanyl distributors in San Diego County.
FAST’s mission is to identify and disrupt distribution networks in San Diego County that are responsible for fatal and non-fatal overdoses. The team will support and provide additional resources to build upon the work of the already-existing DEA’s Overdose Response Team (formerly known as Team 10) to ensure that the most significant fentanyl dealers and those who sell deadly doses of fentanyl face prosecution.
“By leading this critical task force, HSI’s unwavering commitment to closely work with our law enforcement partners to coordinate, deconflict, and prioritize individuals and criminal organizations responsible for supplying fentanyl that results in overdose deaths remains our priority,” said Chad Plantz, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. “Opioid deaths in San Diego are becoming all too common; we must address this issue at the root by utilizing all of our law enforcement tools as a united team.”
Federal authorities brought their first FAST prosecution, Oct. 24. James Michael Bradford was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen S. Crawford on a single count of distribution of fentanyl. The complaint alleges that Bradford distributed fentanyl resulting in the death of a victim identified in court records as M.R.S.
On Oct. 12, Carlsbad Police found the victim at a home in Carlsbad. After investigating the scene, law enforcement identified Bradford as M.R.S.’s source of supply, and they arrested Bradford later that day. Following his arraignment, Bradford was detained. Bradford’s next court date is a preliminary hearing set for Nov. 3.
“FAST is an important step in targeting drug dealers in San Diego County driving our unacceptable number of fatal fentanyl overdoses,” according to U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Together with our state and federal partners, our office will prosecute those engaging in this deadly trade.”
“The creation of FAST brings collaboration between law enforcement to a new level in the fight against fentanyl overdoses and the ongoing work being done to save lives across San Diego County” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “Addressing the fentanyl overdose epidemic in our community remains a priority for my office through prosecution, prevention, and education. FAST leverages the cooperative power of all the agencies involved to put fentanyl suppliers out of business and hold them accountable for the destruction they’re causing to families in our region.”
Carlsbad Police Department Assistant Chief Christie Calderwood stated: “I want to thank our detectives involved in this case at the Carlsbad Police Department as they investigate overdose deaths while we navigate the fentanyl crisis affecting our nation. Our department prioritizes educational and investigative efforts, as well as collaborative work like this with our local law enforcement partners, and all the agencies involved in the newly formed FAST team. We appreciate the U.S Attorney’s Office amazing teamwork, while we move forward with an overarching goal of saving lives and arresting those that bring deadly criminal activity into our community.”
“Fentanyl is an incredibly dangerous drug, one that we did not see ten years ago, and one that is incredibly potent in even very small amounts. Nearly every American community has been impacted by the opioid crisis,” said Anne Maricich, CBP acting director of Field Operations in San Diego. “The creation of FAST utilizes multi-agency collaboration with our federal and state law enforcement partners boosting our effectiveness to disrupt the illicit importation of this deadly narcotic. We need to aggressively continue to investigate and bring to justice those who are contributing to this epidemic.”
“San Diego law enforcement will continue to protect our community by targeting dangerous drug dealers driving addiction,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shelly Howe.
“Removing fentanyl from our communities and those who distribute it are our top priorities,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy. “The FBI will continue to partner with our state and local agencies to bring to justice those who endanger public health and safety by propagating this deadly poison.”