Government investigation reveals a flood of opioids being sent from China.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced federal grand jury indictments against 2 Chinese nationals and their North American distributors for alleged conspiracies to distribute fentanyl, fentanyl derivatives, and other opioids in the United States, which fueled the opioid epidemic, according to a press release.
The Chinese manufacturers and their distributors are the first to receive a Consolidated Priority Organized Target designation, which are reserved for those who are involved with international drug trafficking and money laundering schemes, the DOJ reported.
“The defendants allegedly shipped massive quantities of deadly fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to communities throughout the United States, mostly purchased on the Internet and sent through the mail,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. “The chemicals allegedly killed and injured people in several states, and surely caused misery to many thousands of people. Under the leadership of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, we are taking back our communities by pursuing suppliers of deadly drugs wherever they are located.”
The Southern District of Mississippi indicted Xiobing Yan, 40, of China, on multiple counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute controlled substances and multiple counts of manufacturing and distributing the drugs. Yan allegedly used different names and companies over at least 6 years to sell illicit drugs, according to the DOJ.
Yan is also accused of selling acetyl fentanyl online and selling fentanyl analogues to Americans in various cities. The DOJ also alleged that Yan operated multiple chemical plants in China that were capable of producing the drugs. Yan monitored laws and modified the chemical structure of the drugs to mitigate legal action, according to the DOJ.
The investigation identified more than 100 distributors of the drugs and intercepted packages of thousands of potentially lethal doses of acetyl fentanyl, according to the release.
Jian Zhang, 38, of China, along with 5 Canadians, 2 Florida residents, and a New Jersey resident were indicted in the District of North Dakota. These individuals face charges of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, conspiracy to import drugs from Canada and China, money laundering, international money laundering, and operation of a continuing criminal enterprise, according to the DOJ.
Zhang is alleged to have manufactured fentanyl in at least 4 labs in China and sold fentanyl to Americans online. Zhang’s operation sent illicit drugs, pill presses, stamps, or dies used to shape fentanyl into pills in the mail, according to the DOJ. Law enforcement discovered that he sent thousands of these packages since 2013, according to the DOJ.
The DOJ also charged Zhang with conduct resulting in 4 deaths in 2014 and 2015 and serious bodily harm to 5 additional people.
The CDC estimated that more than 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl and related drugs in 2016, with that number continuing to increase. Since fentanyl is so potent, individuals may be much more likely to experience an overdose.
These indictments have shown the many ways fentanyl and related substances are flooding the United States, including shipments from factories in China, according to the DOJ.
If found guilty, Yan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and 3 years of supervised release, while Zhang faces up to life in prison and a $12.5 million in fines, according to the release.
“Xiaobing Yan, Jian Zhang and their respective associates represent one of the most significant drug threats facing the country — overseas organized crime groups capable of producing nearly any synthetic drug imaginable, including fentanyl, and who attempt to hide their tracks with web-based sales, international shipments and cryptocurrency transactions,” said DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “At a time when overdose deaths are at catastrophic levels, one of DEA’s top priorities is the pursuit of criminal organizations distributing their poison to American neighborhoods. These indictments are a first step; our investigators remain relentless in their pursuit to dismantle these organizations and bring those responsible to justice. DEA, along with our global network of law enforcement partners, will go after these types of criminals wherever they operate.”