6 convicted, 15 facing charges thanks to new opioid drug unit - WNEM TV 5

6 convicted, 15 facing charges thanks to new opioid drug unit

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More than a dozen people have been arrested thanks to a newly organized opioid drug unit tackling the deadly epidemic in Michigan.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Wednesday, May 31 that the new Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit is now fully operational.

Schuette said the state is prosecuting or has convicted more than a dozen individuals for cases involving large amounts or delivery of heroin or other opioid-based drug crimes from across the state.

“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem, but we can reduce the amount of heroin and other opioids available in Michigan and the Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit will do just that,” Schuette said.

Schuette said he has talked to those in the grips of the terrible crisis. He said many of them started using opioid medication because of a physical or emotional injury.

Schuette said either way, they need the community’s help.

“Those caught in this addiction cycle are the victims of this disease caused by opioids, a powerful pull to not necessarily feel good, but to not feel bad. My goal with the Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit is to cut off the supply of heroin and pills, and give law enforcement the chance to prosecute the players who continue to provide toxic drugs Michigan residents every day,” he said.

Prosecutor David Leyton also spoke of the high rate of drug abuse and addiction in Genesee County. He said he is working with local schools to increase the awareness of the dangers of opioids.

“Heroin and other opioid-based drugs are incredibly destructive. You better not be selling it or running it through my county, or the law is going to come down on you,” Leyton said. “In Genesee County, we face an uphill battle unless we can cut off the source and demand for these drugs.”

The new Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit is made up of four Assistant Attorneys General, each with extensive backgrounds in drug crime prosecution.

The unit focuses on cases that cross both state and county lines, involve multiple major actors, and high volumes of heroin and other opioid-based drugs. 

The unit has already taken on more than 40 cases, with six individuals already convicted and 15 currently facing charges. They will also take on felony murder cases in which the cause of death was allegedly caused by a drug overdose.

An average of five Michigan residents dying every day from opioid overdoses.

The state has been identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as one of 19 states that has had a statistically significant increase in opioid-related deaths.  

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