U.S. indicts Chinese nationals for importing opioids

Justice Department reveals charges against Chinese fentanyl distributors

"Chinese fentanyl distributors are using the Internet to sell fentanyl directly to United States customers", Rosenstein continued.

Chief among them is 38-year-old Jian Zhang, of China, charged last month with five federal offenses, including drug conspiracy charges and money laundering.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said recently that fentanyl can be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and it is often mixed with heroin or cocaine.

Legal and illegal synthetic opioids were behind most of the 64,000 drug overdose deaths across the country in 2016, a record level expected to further rise this year.

Both suspects are believed to be in China, and Beijing is unlikely to hand over two of its citizens for prosecution in the USA, which does not have an extradition treaty with China.

Assistant Commissioner Joanne Crampton with the RCMP, one of several agencies involved in the investigation, said the force has implemented a national strategy aimed at tackling fentanyl importers, distributors and traffickers.

The Trump administration has vowed to take on the opioid crisis as a major priority.

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The case against Yan, 40, began in 2013 in MS, where authorities uncovered a domestic drug ring selling synthetics, Rosenstein said.

President Trump's pick for the nation's drug czar, Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., withdrew Tuesday from consideration following a Washington Post/60 Minutes report that Marino had helped usher legislation through Congress that curtailed the Drug Enforcement Administration's ability to crack down on drug distributors.

According to the Department of Justice, one of the men ran two chemical plants in China that produced high quantities of fentanyl and similar drugs and the other man owned four labs in China doing the same thing.

Yan, a distributor of a multitude of illegal drugs, used different names and company identities over a period of at least six years and operated websites selling acetyl fentanyl and other deadly fentanyl analogues directly to US customers in multiple cities across the country. The Justice Department said Yan sold to more than 100 distributors. Yan could allegedly alter the chemical makeup of the fentanyl to evade USA laws, and had at least 100 distributors working for him. Zhang manufactured fentanyl in at least four labs and sold the drug to U.S. customers over the internet, distributing the drugs through the mail and global parcel delivery services.

Zhang's organization would send fentanyl as well as pill presses, stamps and dyes to US customers through the mail, according to prosecutors.

He faces up to life in prison and more than $12 million in fines, if convicted.

The Justice Department says 21 people have been indicted on federal drug charges in North Dakota and OR as part of the investigation. At least 21 other people were also indicted on charges they trafficked the drugs across the US and Canada, often through the USA mail.

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