May 7, 2014 4:30 PM by KUSA
DENVER - Several federal agencies, including the DEA, Customs and Border Protection, the IRS and the FBI announced an ongoing effort targeting the dangerous, global synthetic-designer drug market Wednesday morning.
Since January, there has been a nationwide enforcement operation called "Project Synergy Phase II."
Phase two of Project Synergy culminated Wednesday morning in 29 states, involved more than 45 DEA offices and nearly 200 search warrants were served. More than 150 people were arrested and federal authorities have seized hundreds of thousands of individually-packaged, ready-to-sell synthetic drugs. More than $20 million in cash and assets were seized as well. These numbers will increase as the investigation continues.
Federal officials say the organization resulted in "substantial retail and wholesale sales where the product caused many to become ill."
According to the DEA, Project Synergy not only targeted retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers, but also a massive flow of drug-related proceeds to various Middle Eastern countries like Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Over the past five years, the DEA has identified between 200 and 300 new designer drugs - a majority of which are manufactured in China. DEA sources told 9NEWS Project Synergy "is the biggest Spice investigation the DEA has ever had."
"Tragically, people die every day at the hands of illegal designer drugs," said ICE Deputy Director Daniel Ragsdale. "Through operations like this, we strike a blow to drug dealers and continue an important national conversation about the dangers associated with drug use."
Sources tell 9NEWS multiple arrests are expected throughout the day. 9NEWS sources also said they have seized multiple units of Spice as part of this operation and expect to seize more throughout Wednesday.
Sources tell 9NEWS Crime and Justice Reporter Anastasiya Bolton the enforcement action includes multiple locations in Denver as well as Arapahoe and Douglas counties and was a result of a long-time investigation.
Bolton is on the scene of a Denver location where she has noticed multiple DEA agents and Denver Police officers enter and take people into custody.
The first phase of Project Synergy began in December 2012 and resulted in more than 227 arrests and 416 search warrants throughout 35 states.