USA indicts two Chinese in major fentanyl trafficking case

Two Chinese nationals indicted in fentanyl trafficking operation

"This individual had been using the crypto-currency Bitcoin to buy fentanyl, heroin, and other drugs over the Internet for more than a year, using an encrypted website on the Dark Web.Dogged agents and prosecutors traced the source of the illegal drugs through Oregon, Canada, and eventually to Jian Zhang in China". Yan operated at least two chemical plants in China that were capable of illegally producing "ton quantities" of the drugs, and evaded detection by systematically altering their chemical makeup, the Justice Department said.

Agents from the Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol, IRS, U.S. Postal Service and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security were all involved in building the case.

Of the estimated 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016, 20,000 are blamed on fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

Still, he expressed hope that China would ramp up its efforts to help the USA crack down on fentanyl production.

Zhang was indicted in the District of North Dakota last month, he said, for allegedly running an organization that manufactured fentanyl in at least four known labs in China, and advertising and selling fentanyl to US customers over the Internet, Rosenstein said.

Chief among them is 38-year-old Jian Zhang, of China, charged last month with five federal offenses, including drug conspiracy charges and money laundering. The Justice Department said Yan sold to more than 100 distributors.

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Zhang's organization would send fentanyl as well as pill presses, stamps and dyes to USA customers through the mail, according to prosecutors. Zhang was also charged with the deaths of four people in North Carolina, New Jersey, North Dakota and OR, and serious bodily injuries related to five others. Zhang and eight others were charged with conspiracy to sell the drugs in at least 11 states, and conspiracy to import the drugs through China and Canada.

Fentanyl is roughly 50 times more powerful than heroin, and it has become a significant factor in the opioid crisis ravaging the United States. Officials say American customers could purchase pure fentanyl and other unsafe drugs online, directly from Chinese factories. The United States is dealing with a major epidemic of opioid overdoses.

"DEA, along with our global network of law enforcement partners, will go after these types of criminals where they operate", Patterson said. "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".

Both suspects are believed to be in China, and Beijing is unlikely to hand over two of its citizens for prosecution in the USA, which does not have an extradition treaty with China.

If convicted, Yan faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and three years of supervised release. Zhang faces up to life in prison, and a $12.5 million fine.

Twenty-one individuals in total have been indicted on federal drug charges in both North Dakota and OR as part of the investigation.

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