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Jan 7, 2022
Photo provided by U.S. Attorney’s Office – U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld discusses his appointment as chairman of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Executive Board.
WHEELING — U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld said the connections he’ll make in his new role chairing a regional anti-drug trafficking board will help tremendously over the coming years.
Ihlenfeld was named the chairperson of the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Executive Board Thursday. Composed of drug task forces from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, the AHIDTA was responsible for nearly 2,400 drug arrests in 2021, along with the seizure of substantial quantities of heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine, as well as firearms.
As chair of the board, Ihlenfeld said he hopes to draw from the breadth of experience across the Appalachian region to better combat drug trafficking, along with the board’s strategic and intelligence resources.
“Probably what excites me the most is the intel,” Ihlenfeld said Thursday. “AHIDTA funds people through overtime, it funds investigative needs, it funds equipment.
“The financial resources are very important, and the agencies that are in these task forces absolutely need those financial resources. But the intelligence resources are what really get me excited,” he continued. “We’re not only going to have that intel center, but greater access to the task forces in Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. Over the next two weeks, each state will have a meeting, … and each state will (present) on the work that is done, and that it’s working on now.”
Being able to draw inspiration from, and brainstorm with, agencies from across Appalachia will give Ihlenfeld fresh perspectives and innovative strategies to better combat drug trafficking, he hopes.
“I’ll get to hear what a task force in Lexington and Louisville is doing, and I’ll be able to take that and bring it back here,” he said, “They might have a creative way of going about a particular problem. They might be seeing a trend that maybe hasn’t reached northern West Virginia yet. I really look forward to having greater access to those task forces.”
Ihlenfeld said his experience as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District gave him the experience necessary to hit the ground running in his role as chair. Ihlenfeld had previously also served as Vice Chairperson and Budget Chair for the AHIDTA Executive Board.
“I hit the ground running. I can’t imagine becoming chair of this not having had that background; I’d really be at a loss of how to do the job right,” he said. “I know some people; I know the staff of the London, Ky. office. I know some of the board members are there. … It’s good to see those familiar faces.”
Ihlenfeld said the next several weeks will see a small group of task force members travel to El Paso, Texas, home to the El Paso Intelligence Center, which he described as one of the best drug intelligence centers in the world.
“They’re right at the epicenter of all the drugs that flow from Mexico northward,” he said. “A lot of what we see here in the Appalachian region originates there.”
He also added that West Virginia drug task forces would have a specific meeting focusing on fentanyl, with task forces from Beckley, Bluefield, Charleston, Huntington, and the Eastern Panhandle coming together to collaborate.
“We’ve got not only the task forces in northern West Virginia, that (the news) covers on a regular basis, but we have them throughout the state. … (Appalachia HIDTA Executive Director Vic Brown) and I talked about this today, to further refine our fentanyl strategy. … We’re going to do even more in bring all the task forces together.
“… We’re going to bring in high-level folks from the (Drug Enforcement Agency) to give us their briefing on the current state of fentanyl. It changes all the time, so we need to stay on top of that. That’s an important piece of it.”
Locally, Ihlenfeld said his office would be leveraging intelligence resources to help advance information across the region.
“We are going to take greater advantage of those intel resources going forward, as far as connecting the dots with fentanyl – how’s it getting here, who’s sending it, whether it’s parcels, packages, motor vehicles, we’re going to be doing a lot more of that in 2022.”
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U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld Named Chair of Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Executive Board – Wheeling Intelligencer