Del Quentin Wilber and Aurna Viswanatha, Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2017
Two Chinese men have been charged with running massive drug networks that manufactured and shipped thousands of doses of the potentially lethal drug fentanyl directly to U.S. consumers.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in Washington on Tuesday that such dealers were responsible for helping drive an increase in U.S. overdose deaths. More than 20,000 Americans died last year after taking fentanyl, an opioid painkiller that has gained favor among drug users because it is much more powerful than heroin.
“Chinese fentanyl distributors are using the internet to sell fentanyl directly to U.S. customers,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “They use multiple identities to disguise their activities and their shipments and to obscure the trail of profits going back to China.”
Federal grand juries in Mississippi and North Dakota returned indictments in September against the two Chinese nationals, Xiaobing Yan, 40 years old, and Jian Zhang, 38. The charges were unsealed Monday. Messrs. Yan and Zhang are in China and not in U.S. custody, Justice Department officials said.
The Justice Department also announced charges against three Americans allegedly tied to Mr. Zhang’s network: Elizabeth Ton, 26, and Anthony Gomes, 33, of Davie, Fla., and Darius Ghahary 48, of Ramsey, N.J. All three were arrested last week, officials said.
Five Canadians have also been indicted. Two of them, Jason Joey Berry and Daniel Vivas Ceron, helped peddle Mr. Zhang’s fentanyl while incarcerated in a medium-security prison in Quebec, Canada, the indictment alleges. An attorney for Messrs. Berry and Ceron couldn’t immediately be located.
Mr. Rosenstein said agents first stumbled across Mr. Yan’s network in 2013 after a traffic stop in Mississippi unearthed a drug ring selling synthetic marijuana. During that investigation, U.S. authorities identified Mr. Yan as “a distributor of a multitude of illegal drugs,” including synthetic opioids, Mr. Rosenstein said.
He said authorities determined that Mr. Yan operated websites advertising fentanyl directly to U.S. customers, whom he supplied from at least two chemical plants in China that were capable of producing “ton quantities” of the drug and related compounds.