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FinCEN Launches PROTECT Initiative to Combat Fentanyl Trafficking in At-Risk Cities

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a branch of the Treasury Department, has unveiled a new public-private initiative aimed at helping cities at risk combat fentanyl trafficking. This initiative, named 'Promoting Regional Outreach to Educate Communities on the Threat of Fentanyl' or PROTECT, will see FinCEN hosting sessions in U.S. cities severely affected by the opioid epidemic throughout 2024.

FinCEN Launches PROTECT Initiative to Combat Fentanyl Trafficking in At-Risk Cities

FinCEN announced that these sessions will involve collaboration with local banks and will focus on how law enforcement can effectively support efforts to monitor activities potentially linked to the illegal trafficking of fentanyl. "At these exchanges, federal officials brief on information critical to tracking these illicit financial flows, including red-flag indicators of fentanyl-related activity," FinCEN stated.

Additionally, the series will involve discussions on the types of information that are particularly valuable when financial institutions report suspicious activity. The first event took place in Boston yesterday, where federal agencies and law enforcement authorities from the Boston area met with financial industry representatives.

During the Boston event, FinCEN emphasized the significant value that Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) contribute to law enforcement's fight against fentanyl trafficking. Financial institutions also shared their observations on money laundering flows and tactics used by narcotraffickers and their enablers.

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This initiative is part of the Treasury’s counter-fentanyl 'Strike Force,' launched in December to combat the trafficking of illicit fentanyl. The Strike Force coordinates efforts among various Treasury agencies, including FinCEN, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.

The PROTECT series is being launched in collaboration with other government partners such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Secret Service. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo remarked that the Treasury’s Counter-Fentanyl Strike Force "continues to go after the millions of dollars that drug trafficking networks earn off their illegal activity," noting that this deadly trade claims the lives of far too many Americans each year. He specifically highlighted the high level of fentanyl deaths in Massachusetts, where nearly 2,400 people died from opioid-related overdoses in 2022.

"We are committed to working at both the federal and local levels to marshal all of our collective resources towards cutting off the financial flows powering this deadly trade," Adeyemo added. FinCEN Director Andrea Gacki stated that the PROTECT series will "enhance FinCEN’s collaboration with financial institutions to combat the scourge that is our nation’s opioid crisis." She expressed enthusiasm about this new chapter of public-private information sharing aimed at identifying related illicit activity and further disrupting fentanyl trafficking.



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