Trump Administration Targets Chinese Nationals Trafficking Fentanyl Across US

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Officials with the Trump administration are targeting five Chinese nationals for operating a massive fentanyl trafficking operation that “directly contributed to American deaths related to the opioid crisis.”

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), under the direction of Secretary Steven Mnuchin, sanctioned on Friday Jian Zhang, owner of a chemical company based in China, and four financial associates from China who worked directly for Zhang. The group allegedly used Zhang’s company, Zaron Bio-Tech, to import large amounts of fentanyl and even more powerful synthetic analogs of fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is the number-one killer drug in the United States today, and most of it comes from China,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Friday. “We allege that Jian Zhang and some of his associates have conspired to bring enormous quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues into this country and that Americans died as a result. I want to thank Secretary Mnuchin and Undersecretary (Sigal) Mandelker for today’s designation.”

Authorities unsealed an indictment of Zhang Oct. 17 in the District of North Dakota, which charges him with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, drug distribution and importation resulting in death, and money laundering. The indictment accuses Zhang and his associates of importing and distributing hundreds of bags of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid roughly 30 to 50 times more powerful than pure heroin, which resulted in the deaths of at least four Americans and serious injury of five others.

The announcement from the Treasury Department names Na Chu, Yeyou Chu, Cuiying Liu, and Keping Zhang as co-conspirators in the drug ring. The sanctions effectively freeze any financial assets these individuals hold in the U.S.

“Combating the flow of fentanyl into the United States is a top priority of this administration,” Mandelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said Friday. “Today, Treasury is targeting Jian Zhang’s fentanyl trafficking network, which has directly contributed to American deaths related to the opioid crisis. This action will disrupt the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the United States, and serves as a warning that Treasury will continue to target the assets of those who deal in illicit opioids and synthetic narcotics.”

Large quantities of narcotics continue to infiltrate the U.S. due to the relentless efforts of traffickers. However, the Department of Justice under Sessions is gaining ground against drug movers taking advantage of America’s opioid scourge.

Federal officials recently scored a major victory against narcotics traffickers during an investigation of a distribution network, confiscating enough fentanyl to kill a quarter million Americans.

U.S. attorney Mike Stuart, serving the Southern District of West Virginia, announced April 17 charges against nearly 100 individuals involved in a massive drug trafficking ring operating in West Virginia and Michigan. The investigation, dubbed Operation Saigon Sunset, targeted the multi-state Peterson Drug Trafficking Organization and involved more than 200 law enforcement officers from federal, state and local levels.

Federal authorities recently charged 75 people for money laundering and narcotics trafficking, including fentanyl, linked to the Sinaloa Cartel.

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed 40 indictments March 8 in a San Diego federal court, detailing how a network of individuals conspired to launder tens of millions of dollars in drug cash between 2015 and 2018. Another 35 people were charged over the course of the DOJ’s multi-year investigation into the organization’s criminal activity.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.

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