Prisoners in Canada among alleged leaders in massive opioid ring: United States authorities

Source WOIO

The U.S. Justice Department says customers bought pure fentanyl and other risky drugs online directly from Chinese factories, and inexperienced users would overdose because they didn't realize the potency of the opioids.

The two Chinese nationals, 40-year-old Xiaobing Yan and 38-year-old Jian Zhang, are accused of operating illicit labs and chemical plants that produced fentanyl.

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

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says he's looking into the legislation pushed by Representative Tom Marino, which weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration's authority over opioid distribution.

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.

The synthetic drug, Rosenstein said in a statement, was imported from China in large quantities and sold to thousands of customers.

For the first time, federal grand juries have indicted two Chinese nationals on charges of distributing the deadly drug fentanyl in Maryland and other states.

United States officials alleged Zhang had four fentanyl-producing laboratories and sold the drug over the Internet, paid for by crypto-currencies and shipped by global parcel services.

The announcement comes amid heightened public attention on the administration's efforts to combat the opioid crisis.

Federal agents were able to identify more than 100 distributors of synthetic opioids involved with Yan's networks, they said.

"The defendants allegedly shipped massive quantities of deadly fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to communities throughout the United States, mostly purchased on the Internet and sent through the mail", Rosenstein said.

"Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are coming into the country in numerous ways, including shipments from factories in China directly to US customers who purchased it on the internet", Rosenstein said.

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.

While China and the United States do not have an extradition treaty, Rosenstein said the Justice Department is "working closely with our colleagues in China and other countries to stem the flow of illegal fentanyl into the United States".

"Zhang and Yan are the first Chinese nationals designated as Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs)", said Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein.

He faces up to life in prison and more than $12 million in fines, if convicted. Inexperienced users don't know the drug is pure and overdose. Zhang was also charged with the deaths of four people in North Carolina, New Jersey, North Dakota and OR, and serious bodily injuries related to five others.

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