“Anonymity Overdose:” How U.S. tax policy supports drug addiction misery
Since 2000, the rate of deaths from opioid-related overdoses has increased 200 percent. In 2014, there were approximately one and a half times more drug overdose deaths in the United States than deaths from motor vehicle accidents.
So: what can we do about it?
One thing we can do is crack down on anonymous shell companies that launder the profits made from illegal sales of opioids, which include such drugs as Oxycodone, Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Opium and Heroin.
Cracking down on these anonymous shell companies is the recommendation of Fair Share Education Fund, which this week released Anonymity Overdose, a report that examines the link between shell companies and opioid trafficking.
When we talk about money laundering and shell companies, we often think of such things as terrorist financing, human trafficking, tax avoidance and evasion, insurance fraud, Ponzi schemes, and arms dealing. But billions of dollars of drug money also is hidden from the public and from law enforcement through laundering.
And this exacts a tremendous cost from our country and our people.
“The opioid problem has been profoundly felt by our communities, health care workers, and law enforcement officials,” said Nathan Proctor, co-author of Anonymity Overdose and national campaign director with Fair Share Education Fund. “We should be doing everything in our power to address this crisis. We can add to those efforts by ending the use of anonymous shell companies.”
So what exactly is the cost of opioid addiction to the U.S.? Overall, according to the latest study available, the cost of illicit drug use is tagged at $193 billion a year. But that was in 2007. Anonymity Overdose estimates that the price tag today is much higher. Costs are due to lost productivity in the work place, drug treatment, incarceration and other criminal justice costs, and premature death.
What can we do about it? One thing Congress could do is to approve President Obama’s proposed funding to fight opioid addiction. Unfortunately, Congress has recessed for the summer without addressing the issue, one in a continuing series of emergencies members have failed to act on.
Another thing we could do is convince Congress to pass the bipartisan Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act, which would require the collection of information about the true owner of a company, and make sure law enforcement has access to that information.
“Drug traffickers regularly set up anonymous shell companies,” said Gary Kalman, executive director of the FACT Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance of more than 100 state, national, and international groups in favor of shell company reform. “Congress should immediately pass bipartisan legislation to end the secrecy and give cops and prosecutors the tools they need to go after drug cartels who threaten the safety and security of our communities.”
Anonymity Overdose documented ten case studies that show the connection between the use of anonymous shell companies and opioid trafficking and related money laundering. In one case, Kingsley lyare Osemwengie and his associates were found to use call girls and couriers to transport oxycodone, and then move profits through an anonymous shell company named High Profit Investments LLC.
“We know the drug cartels are in it for the money – and to stop them we need to go after their profits,” said John Cassara, former special agent in the U.S. Treasury with the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, whose work helped inform Fair Share Education Fund’s report. “Anonymous shell companies make that work much more difficult for law enforcement. We need to do more than just bust the street-level distributors. We need to go after the real kingpins, and to do that we need better tools to follow the money.”
Besides Nathan Proctor, the report was co-authored by Fair Share Education Fund’s Julia Ladics.