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Treasury Department launches strike force to counter illicit fentanyl

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(The Center Square) – The Treasury Department announced Monday that it is launching a Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force ahead of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s trip to Mexico.

The strike force will use Treasury’s “resources and expertise in a coordinated and streamlined operation to combat the trafficking of illicit fentanyl.” The strike force brings together people and resources across key Treasury offices and is jointly led by the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and IRS Criminal Investigation.

“The Treasury Department’s Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force will allow us to bring the Department’s unrivaled expertise in fighting financial crime to bear against this deadly epidemic,” Yellen said in a statement. “Treasury will use every tool at its disposal to disrupt the ability of drug traffickers to peddle this poison in our country.”

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson and IRS Criminal Investigation Chief James Lee will lead the strike force.

“On visits to the U.S. Southwest border this year, I saw firsthand how Treasury tools make a difference in disrupting the flow of illicit narcotics into the United States,” Nelson said in a statement. “The Strike Force will act quickly and decisively with the top specialists from across the Department to nimbly respond to the newest threats.”

The Treasury Department has put sanctions on cartel members and associated businesses in an effort to cut them off from the U.S. financial system, which plays a key role in global financial transactions. In the past two years, the department was sanctioned almost 250 targets for involvement in drug trafficking activities.

“Partnerships are key to the work we do at IRS Criminal Investigation, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with our Treasury counterparts to combat fentanyl – one of the deadliest narcotics plaguing our country,” Lee said in a statement. “To date, our team has played a key role in sanctioning and bringing criminal charges against individuals and entities involved in fentanyl trafficking, and we look forward to using our financial expertise to further disrupt the flow of fentanyl into the United States.”

Yellen plans to travel to Mexico City from Dec. 5-7 to meet with government and private sector leaders about ways “to strengthen U.S.-Mexico collaboration on countering fentanyl and illicit finance,” among other issues, according to the Treasury Department.

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