VIRGINIA BEACH — U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger spoke in front of Old Dominion Bar Association members at their annual conference Friday.
“For the first time in a decade, opioid deaths are down in Virginia. Here in Virginia Beach they’re down 25 percent, and those are actual lives saved,” he said.
Terwilliger attributes lower mortality rates to increased overall awareness and availability of the overdose reversal medication, Narcan.
But when it comes to prosecutions, Terwilliger said his office’s approach to “using a spear, not a net” targets opioid enterprises hoping to not only decrease deaths but overdoses, too.
“We’re focusing on working our way up the chain and back to the source of the supply to seize the drugs and the money,” he said. “You can take a drug dealer off the street and the next day, there’ll be two more in his place.”
Terwilliger said his priority is to increase federal presence in locations the DEA and other official intelligence agencies say fentanyl and opioids land first — right here in the Tidewater area.
“That means more money, more prosecutors, and more attention,” he said.
In March, a Virginia Beach woman was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for distributing fentanyl that killed at least one person.
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The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case against Michelle Best.
“With fentanyl, because it’s so deadly, we want every one of those cases presented to us,” he said.
However, Terwilliger said there are some unique obstacles to fighting the opioid epidemic in Virginia Beach.
“You have a large transient population that comes down to this area to let loose, but count on us and expect federal law enforcement to shut down this pipeline coming straight into the area,” he said.