With drug deaths soaring, USA indicts Chinese fentanyl producers

Yan, who operated at least two chemical plants in China that were capable of producing tons of fentanyl, would monitor drug legislation and law enforcement actions in the USA, changing the chemical structure of his drugs to avoid prosecution, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said.

According to the Department of Justice, one of the men ran two chemical plants in China that produced high quantities of fentanyl and similar drugs and the other man owned four labs in China doing the same thing.

Robert W. Patterson, acting administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said the Chinese case represents "one of the most significant drug threats facing the country" because they were able to produce a wide array of synthetic drugs and hide their tracks with web-based sales, global shipments and digital currencies like bitcoin. Its nominee to be the nation's drug czar withdrew Tuesday from consideration following reports that he played a key role in weakening the federal government's authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in 2016, and the number is rising at an exponential rate.

While Rosenstein said the US has been in working with Chinese officials, he would not comment on whether Yan and Zhang are in custody.

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

The indictment also charged Jian Zhang for manufacturing fentanyl in at least four laboratories in China, and selling it to USA customers via the Internet.

Forty-year-old Xiao-Bing Yan and 38-year-old Jian Zhang were charged in the federal districts of MS and North Dakota with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, which is often sold as heroin, but is up to fifty times more potent.

Patterson insisted that the DEA has not let up on policing the industry and has the tools to do so, but would not say if the agency was investigating any of the major prescription opioid distributors.

Zhang's organization would send fentanyl as well as pill presses, stamps and dyes to US customers through the mail, according to prosecutors.

Zhang's charges relate to four people's deaths in New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota and OR in 2014 and 2015, and serious bodily injuries to five others, the DOJ said.

Zhang's eight North Dakota co-defendants are each charged with drug trafficking conspiracy. "CPOTs are among the most significant drug trafficking threats in the world". Officials say American customers could purchase pure fentanyl and other risky drugs online, directly from Chinese factories. According to law enforcement officials, the drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

He faces up to life in prison and more than $12 million in fines, if convicted.

The charges in the case, which come as North America grapples with an increasingly deadly opioid crisis, are said to the first in the United States against designated Chinese manufacturers of fentanyl and other opiates.

  • Rogelio Becker