In a letter to the Drug Enforcement Agency, New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan said the agency “must take further action to address the substance misuse crisis and this dangerous rise in counterfeit drugs.” And she pointed to the problem of cybercrime networks selling “dangerous drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine disguised as legitimate prescription drugs.”
“I have also heard from law enforcement that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more drug trafficking through the dark web. This, among numerous other factors, has made it easier for illicit drugs to evade law enforcement and fuel the substance misuse crisis we have seen across our state,” the senator wrote.
Her concerns echoed those of experts who participated in a recent panel of cybercrime experts hosted by InsideSources and United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT).
USA-IT is a public-private partnership working to fight black market trade. The challenge, Hernan Albamonte of Philip Morris International told the roundtable, is that social media and online sales put potentially dangerous counterfeit products right at the average websurfer’s fingertips.
“It is a growing threat to our national security, and it impacts every law-abiding American,” said Albamonte. “The criminals are nimble enough to avoid law enforcement and strong enough to recruit vulnerable citizens.”
A recent FBI report said the agency received a record number of cybercrime complaints from the American public in 2020: 791,790, with reported losses exceeding $4.1 billion. That represents a 69 percent increase in total complaints from 2019.
The products are coming across the border but also through the mail. As well as the monetary loss to legitimate businesses and governments, there is also a security issue, said Albence, former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“A lot of this money is going to fund these transnational criminal organizations,” he said. “And most of these organizations do not specialize in one or two types of crime. They’re not just peddling fake Viagra or fake Gucci purses. They are using those funds to support all sorts of other nefarious criminal activity. From a public safety and national security standpoint, looking at narcotics trafficking, human trafficking—it’s estimated to be a $150 billion a year industry.”
Hassan, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, wants the DEA to act.
“The administration must take further action to address the substance misuse crisis and this dangerous rise in counterfeit drugs,” Hassan wrote. “I request information on what additional steps the DEA is taking to combat this new dimension in the fight against substance misuse and what additional action you may need from Congress to be successful in cracking down on this. Thank you for your steadfast work and attention to this critical issue.”