Chinese nationals indicted on illegal drug manufacturing

Officials say fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are coming into the United States in numerous ways including highly pure shipments of fentanyl from factories in China

The U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday the indictment of two Chinese producers of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that causes a rising share of the country's 60,000-plus annual overdose deaths.

The U.S. Justice Department charged Xiaobing Yan with distributing "a multitude of drugs, including synthetic cathinones and cannabinoids, as well as synthetic opioids", Rosenstein 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". The case was brought there as a routine traffic stop in the Magnolia State resulted in a "domestic drug ring that sold various synthetic cannabinoids, sometimes dubbed "spice" or "bath salts".

The indictments come as the US government concentrates its resources on fighting what it classifies an opioid epidemic in the United States.

The duo are among five Canadians facing charges, USA authorities said.

USA officials said Yan kept tabs on legislation and law-enforcement activities in the United States and China, and modified the chemical structures of the fentanyl analogues he made to evade prosecution in the United States.

The department warns that inexperienced users often have no idea that they are ingesting fentanyl until it is too late.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in 2016, with the number growing at an exponential rate. In all, there were more than 64,000 lethal overdoses in the country past year.

"Xiaobing Yan, Jian Zhang and their respective associates represent one of the most significant drug threats facing the country - overseas organized crime groups capable of producing almost any synthetic drug imaginable, including fentanyl, and who attempt to hide their tracks with web-based sales, worldwide shipments and cryptocurrency transactions", said Robert Patterson, acting administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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"Yan monitored legislation and law enforcement activities in the United States and China, modifying the chemical structure of the fentanyl analogues he produced to evade prosecution in the United States", Rosenstein said.

Rosenstein claimed Zhang's organization sent orders of fentanyl and other illicit drugs, and pill presses, stamps, and dies used to shape fentanyl into pills, to customers in the United States through the mail or worldwide parcel delivery services.

Yan was indicted in the Southern District of MS on two counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute multiple controlled substances, including fentanyl, and seven counts of manufacturing and distributing the drugs in specific locations.

The two suspects, Xiaobing Yan and Jian Zhang, face a raft of charges, including conspiracy to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and drugs with a similar chemical makeup in the USA through the mail or global delivery services.

Rosenstein would not say whether the Chinese have arrested the two suspects, but he said he hoped the authorities there "would take action to hold them accountable".

The announcement comes as the Trump administration suffered a setback in its efforts to call attention to the nation's drug crisis.

Yan faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine, if convicted.

Investigators believe that Yan, who was indicted in federal court in MS, has been producing methylone and other related substances and selling them in the United States.

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