Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced indictments Friday related to an international fentanyl network operated by fugitive Chinese nationals.
Speaking in Fargo, North Dakota, Sessions revealed charges against ten defendants for their role in trafficking synthetic opioids linked to several overdose deaths in the U.S. The charges stem from a joint law enforcement investigation dubbed “Operation Denial,” which began following the overdose death of an 18-year-old man in Grand Forks, North Dakota, reported KVRR.
Three of the 10 defendants are in custody in the U.S., however, the rest remain fugitives. The group faces charges of drug distribution and importation resulting in death, and money laundering.
“They and their co–conspirators allegedly shipped fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from China through the mail and it killed people, killed people, in North Carolina, New Jersey, Oregon, and Grand Forks,” Sessions said at a press conference addressing law enforcement Friday. “They used the internet, about 30 different aliases, cryptocurrencies, offshore accounts. Each one of you played critical roles in the formation from virtually the beginning of the investigation which has become an international success story.”
The announcement from Sessions came after the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Jian Zhang, owner of a chemical company based in China, and four financial associates from China who worked directly for Zhang.
The five Chinese nationals allegedly used Zhang’s company, Zaron Bio-Tech, to import large amounts of fentanyl and even more powerful synthetic analogs of fentanyl.
Authorities previously unsealed an indictment of Zhang on Oct. 17 in the District of North Dakota, which charged him with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, drug distribution and importation resulting in death, and money laundering. Zhang and his associates are accused 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.
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 in West Virginia, confiscating enough fentanyl to kill a quarter million Americans.
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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