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Attorney General Josh Stein Calls for Fentanyl Control Unit

For Immediate Release:
Monday, February 20, 2023

Contact: Nazneen Ahmed
919-716-0060

(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today announced that he is seeking funding to create a Fentanyl Control Unit within the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions and Law Enforcement Section to help local district attorneys handle large-scale fentanyl trafficking, wiretap, and overdose cases. Prosecutors in Special Prosecutions are referred cases from local district attorneys for reasons of conflict, jurisdictional complexity, and resource management. A new Fentanyl Control Unit will prosecute fentanyl and other drug traffickers and dealers, bringing additional expertise and resources to these important cases.

“Fentanyl is deadly and highly addictive,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Even as we interdict more fentanyl at the border than ever before, too many North Carolinians overdose from fentanyl and are dying. We must hold those who peddle this poison accountable and take them off our streets. I look forward to working with leaders in the legislature to strengthen our state’s ability to prosecute these cases and save lives.”

More resources are needed to respond to the crisis. That is why Attorney General Stein is asking legislators to add prosecutors at the Department of Justice to create a Fentanyl Control Unit to assist local prosecutors around the state with the increasing number of fentanyl cases. This specialized unit will target high-level cases. Additional resources are also needed in individual district attorney’s offices across the state to address all types of fentanyl prosecutions.

“In Buncombe County and across North Carolina, we have seen a sustained uptick in both overdose deaths and prosecutions of people responsible for bringing and selling fentanyl in our communities,” said Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams. “I applaud the Attorney General’s efforts to deliver more resources to prosecute people engaged in trafficking fentanyl, reduce use, and save lives throughout our state.”

If positions for the new unit are approved, the Department of Justice will offer fentanyl, wiretap and overdose prosecution resources to all district attorney offices in the state beyond our current capacity. In 2021, more than 70,000 people died of fentanyl overdose in the United States. North Carolina is also experiencing similar increases; in 2022, fentanyl rose to become the number two drug found in drug evidence tested at the State Crime Lab.

Background on the Special Prosecutions Section’s Drug Trafficking Work:

  • Special Prosecutions has prosecuted:
    • interstate heroin trafficker Dwayne Davis, sentenced in Vance County to 20-27 years in prison;
    • heroin distributor Kane Graves, sentenced to 10 years in federal court for distributing heroin to a Durham resident who died from it; and
    • Asheville fentanyl dealer Brandon Neels, who received an active sentence for involuntary manslaughter in an overdose death.
  • Special Prosecutions has applied for 101 wiretaps in the past year, targeting local, state, and international drug trafficking organizations.

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