State Department Announces $5 Million Reward For Man Accused Of Being Massive, International Fentanyl Dealer

(Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images)

Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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The State Department is offering up to $5 million to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest or conviction of a Chinese national suspected of leading an international fentanyl trafficking ring.

Zhang Jian allegedly led a criminal organization that imported and distributed the lethal opioid into the U.S. between 2013 and 2016, the State Department said in a Monday press release. His trafficking operations are believed to have led to the deaths of four Americans in multiple states along with serious bodily injuries to five other Americans.

The reward is being offered by the State Department’s Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program (TOCRP). More than 75 criminals and drug traffickers have been captured under the TOCRP and the separate Narcotics Rewards Program since 1986.

The State Department also noted it has paid more than $135 million in rewards to date.

Zhang, known also as “Hong Kong Zaron,” is the alleged owner of a biotech company in China’s Shandong province that allegedly was used to sell illegal substances throughout the U.S. and Canada. His organization is suspected of producing fentanyl in at least four labs in China and selling the drug to Americans over the internet, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that deaths involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl surged more than 15% between 2018 and 2019. The agency also reported that synthetics accounted for 73% of all opioid-related deaths in 2019. (RELATED: Feds Seize More Than 1,000 Pounds Of Fentanyl In A Month For First Time In 2021)

The majority of illicit fentanyl is manufactured in China, according to federal officials.

North Dakota federal prosecutors issued an indictment in Jan. 2018 charging Zhang and several other U.S. and foreign nationals with drug trafficking and money laundering.

The indictment is also connected to Operation Denial, an ongoing investigation into drug trafficking cases that involve fentanyl and analogous drugs brought into the U.S. from China.

The investigation began in Jan. 2015 after an 18-year-old woman in North Dakota died of a fentanyl overdose, according to The Associated Press. More than 30 defendants, including two alleged trafficking leaders accused of operating the ring from a Canadian prison, have also been indicted in court.

A federal jury in early July convicted Rhode Island resident Steven Barros Pinto as part of Operation Denial for conspiring to import and distribute fentanyl pills across the U.S.