China – the leading exporter of Fentanyl chemicals
The leading cause of death among Americans ages 18 to 45 is fentanyl, not heart disease, cancer, motor vehicle accidents, or COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports fentanyl as the top cause of death for Americans in this age group. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is highly addictive and profitable for those involved in its manufacturing and distribution.
The essential ingredients for fentanyl and its related substances come from precursor chemicals that are sourced from China. These chemicals are then shipped to Mexico, where they are turned into fentanyl-containing tablets and brought into the United States via the southern border. It is believed that China is responsible for more than 90% of the illicit fentanyl drugs found in the United States.
Justice Department arrests two individuals and unseals three indictments against Chinese nationals
On Friday, the Justice Department arrested two individuals and unsealed three indictments in the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. These charges are related to fentanyl production, distribution, and sales resulting from fentanyl precursor chemicals. These are the first prosecutions to charge China-based chemical manufacturing companies and nationals of the People’s Republic of China for trafficking fentanyl precursor chemicals into the United States. Specifically, the indictments allege that the defendants knowingly manufactured, marketed, sold, and supplied precursor chemicals for fentanyl production in violation of federal law.
During these investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than 200 kilograms of fentanyl-related precursor chemicals. This quantity could contain enough deadly doses to kill 25 million Americans.
Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Fentanyl and its analogues have caused great harm to communities across the United States and are contributing to the ongoing overdose epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that approximately 110,000 Americans died due to the overdose epidemic in 2022. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 49. Fentanyl analogues, which are similar in chemical makeup and effect to fentanyl, can be even more potent and lethal than fentanyl itself.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, said:
“When I announced in April that the Justice Department had taken significant enforcement actions against the Sinaloa Cartel, I promised that the Justice Department would never forget the victims of the fentanyl epidemic. I also promised that we would never stop working to hold accountable those who bear responsibility for it. That includes not only going after the leaders of the Cartels, their drug and gun traffickers, their money launderers, security forces, and clandestine lab operators. It also includes stopping the Chinese chemical companies that are supplying the cartels with the building blocks they need to manufacture deadly fentanyl.”
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram, expanded on the action taken against the Chinese drug companies.
“Today’s announcement is a considerable step forward in our unrelenting fight against fentanyl, targeting the threat where it starts. These companies and individuals are alleged to have knowingly supplied drug traffickers, in the United States and Mexico, with the ingredients and scientific know-how needed to make fentanyl – a drug that continues to devastate families and communities across the United States, killing Americans from all walks of life. Targeting entire criminal drug networks, from the source of supply to the last mile of distribution, is critical to saving American lives. DEA will not stop until this crisis ends.”
China Fentanyl Indictments in the Southern District of New York
An indictment was unsealed in the Southern District of New York charging the China-based chemical company Hubei Amarvel Biotech Co. Ltd., aka AmarvelBio, (Amarvel Biotech), as well as its executives and employees Qingzhou Wang, 35, aka Bruce (Wang); Yiyi Chen, 31, aka Chiron (Chen); and Fnu Lnu, aka Er Yang and Anita (Yang), with fentanyl trafficking, precursor chemical importation, and money laundering offenses. Wang and Chen, both nationals of China, were expelled from Fiji on June 8, arrested by the DEA, and presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter in Honolulu federal court on June 9. Wang and Chen were ordered detained in Honolulu and will appear in Manhattan federal court following their arrival in the Southern District of New York. Yang, also a national of China, is at large.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York, said:
“The indictment unsealed today in the Southern District of New York is the next step in our fight against fentanyl. Today, we target the very beginning of the fentanyl supply chain: the Chinese manufacturers of the raw chemicals used to make fentanyl and its analogues. We’ve charged a Chinese precursor chemical company. And that’s not all. We’ve charged and arrested some of the individuals who work at the company. That includes a corporate executive and a marketing manager. They’re in American handcuffs. And they’re going to face justice in an American courtroom.”
Amarvel Biotech is a chemical manufacturer based in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. According to allegations in the indictment and other court filings, it has exported large amounts of precursor chemicals used to manufacture fentanyl and its analogues.
Amarvel Biotech has advertised its shipments of fentanyl precursor chemicals to the US and Mexico on its website and other storefront sites. It has targeted precursor chemical customers in Mexico by advertising fentanyl precursors as a “Mexico hot sale,” guaranteeing “100% stealth shipping” abroad, and posting documentation of Amarvel Biotech shipping chemicals to Culiacan, Mexico, home city of the Sinaloa Cartel. This cartel is one of the dominant drug trafficking organizations in the Western Hemisphere and is largely responsible for the massive influx of fentanyl into the United States in recent years.
Amarvel Biotech has also attempted to evade law enforcement interdiction of its precursor chemical shipments. The company has advertised its ability to use deceptive packaging, such as packaging labeled as dog food, nuts, or motor oil, to ensure “safe” delivery to the US and Mexico.
During an eight-month undercover investigation by the DEA, Amarvel Biotech and its principal executive, Wang, its marketing manager, Chen, and its sales representative, Yang, shipped over 200 kilograms of precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl and its analogues from China to the United States. The defendants intended that the chemicals would be used to produce fentanyl and its analogues in New York. Despite being told that Americans had died after consuming fentanyl made from the chemicals they sold, Amarvel Biotech, Wang, Chen, and Yang agreed to continue supplying multi-ton shipments of fentanyl precursors.
For example, on or about Nov. 17, 2022, a DEA confidential source (CS-1) wrote to Yang using an encrypted messaging application, “You know I making fentanyl,” and “Is not safe.” Yang replied, “I know.” On or about Dec. 1, 2022, Yang wrote to CS-1, promising that CS-1 would be “happy with our product” and noting that CS-1 would “be able to synthesize fentanyl.” In exchange for payment in cryptocurrency, Amarvel Biotech thereafter shipped from China to New York approximately 999.7 grams of the fentanyl precursor 1-boc-4-AP, approximately 1,002.6 grams of the fentanyl precursor 1-boc-4-piperidone, and approximately 893.6 grams of the methamphetamine precursor methylamine.
In March 2023, Wang and Chen had a face-to-face meeting with an individual who CS-1 thought was their boss but was really another DEA confidential source (CS-2). During the meeting, Wang and Chen talked about how Amarvel Biotech could provide large amounts of fentanyl precursors to New York for CS-1 and CS-2’s fentanyl manufacturing operation. When CS-2 said they wanted a different formula for making fentanyl and that some of their American customers had supposedly died, Wang and Chen said they had “many customers in America and Mexico” who could help with fentanyl production.
After March 2023, Amarvel Biotech, Wang, Chen, and Yang agreed to sell CS-1 and CS-2 around 210 kilograms of fentanyl precursors in exchange for payment in cryptocurrency. On April 10, during a video call with Wang and Chen, CS-2 said they would use the 210 kilograms of fentanyl precursors to make around 50 to 55 kilograms of fentanyl – enough to make about 25 million deadly doses.
Around May 2023, Amarvel Biotech, Wang, Chen, and Yang sent the shipment ordered by CS-1 and CS-2 to the United States. The DEA took the precursor shipment from a warehouse near Los Angeles on May 5. Lab testing confirmed that the shipment contained a chemical used to make a fentanyl analogue. In an encrypted messaging group chat with CS-1, CS-2, Wang, and Chen, Yang explained that “New York, the United States, has been strict in checking the precursors of the ‘final product’ some time ago, so for the sake of safety, this time it is sent to California.”
In June 2023, Wang and Chen met again with CS-2. They talked about a large order of fentanyl precursor chemicals. They also discussed ways to avoid detection and seizure of their shipments because the American government recently seized a Mexican group and followed their routes to China. The U.S. Government found their competitor in China, which might refer to fentanyl-related charges filed in the Southern District of New York against the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel and certain China-based precursor chemical company executives.
The DEA’s Special Operations Division Bilateral Investigations Unit led the investigation, with help from various offices and organizations such as the DEA Bangkok Country Office, DEA Wellington Country Office, DEA Beijing Country Office, DEA Honolulu District Office, DEA New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), DEA Riverside District Office, DEA Special Testing Laboratory, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Royal Thai Police Narcotics Suppression Bureau, the Fiji Police Force Narcotic Bureau, the Fiji Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii.
The Southern District of New York’s Office’s National Security and International Narcotics Unit is prosecuting the case.
China Fentanyl indictments made in Eastern District of New York
Two indictments were made public in the Eastern District of New York that describe criminal conspiracies by companies and employees based in China to produce and distribute fentanyl in the United States.
The first indictment charges Anhui Rencheng Technology Co. (Rencheng) Ltd.; Anhui Moker New Material Technology Co.; Shutong Wang; and Shifang Ruan, aka Eva, with conspiring to manufacture and distribute fentanyl, producing fentanyl, and other related offenses. Additionally, the indictment charges those same defendants, as well as Xinyu Zhao, aka Sarah, and Yue Gao, aka Ellie, with hiding their activities illegally, including through customs fraud and introducing misbranded drugs into the U.S. marketplace. The indictment also charges Rencheng, Wang, and Ruan with conspiring to distribute butonitazene, a controlled substance.
The second indictment charges Hefei GSK Trade Co. Ltd, aka Hebei Gesuke Trading Co. Ltd. and Hebei Sinaloa Trading Co. Ltd.; and Ruiqing Li with similar offenses, including conspiring to manufacture and distribute fentanyl, producing fentanyl, conspiring to distribute a List I chemical, distributing a List I chemical, customs fraud conspiracy, introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, and distribution of metonitazene, a controlled substance.
U.S Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York, said:
“As alleged, the defendants knowingly distributed the chemical building blocks of fentanyl to the United States and Mexico, even providing advice on how they should be used to manufacture this dangerous drug which inflicts untold tragedy in New York City, Long Island, and across the nation. This prosecution shows that the companies and individuals who fuel our nation’s deadly opioid epidemic – wherever they are located – will be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
The companies named in the indictments supplied precursor chemicals to various countries, including the United States and Mexico, with the knowledge that these chemicals would be used to produce fentanyl. These companies advertised their products on social media platforms worldwide, including to the United States and Mexico, and shipped their chemical products to these countries via public and private international mail and package carriers. To avoid detection and interception of their chemical products at borders, the companies used deceptive and fraudulent practices, such as mislabeling packages, falsifying customs forms, and making false declarations at border crossings. The chemicals distributed by the defendants contained all the materials necessary to manufacture fentanyl using the most common methods.
To conceal their distribution of fentanyl precursors, the defendant companies used “masking” molecules that slightly altered the chemical signature of the precursor chemicals. By altering the signature, the substance could avoid testing protocols and regulations by appearing to be a new substance. However, these masking molecules can be easily removed, returning the substance to its original form as a fentanyl precursor. The defendant companies not only produced and distributed masked precursors, but also provided instructions on how to remove the masking molecules upon receipt, thus helping their customers to more effectively obtain banned precursors and produce fentanyl. The defendants also gave instructions on how to improve fentanyl yield and advice on which chemicals to buy to replace banned precursor products.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations, such as the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), have been using fentanyl precursors and masked fentanyl precursors provided by the defendant companies and others like them. These chemicals have allowed these cartels and other drug trafficking organizations to produce large amounts of fentanyl in secret labs in Mexico, which they then distribute in the United States and other places. The defendant companies’ materials and instructions have directly contributed to the spread of deadly fentanyl in the United States.
This case was investigated by several agencies, including DEA New York, DEA Mexico, DEA Diversion Control Division, DEA Special Testing and Research Laboratory, U.S. Customs and Border Protection New York Field Office, IRS Criminal Investigation New York Division, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service New York. The New York City Police Department, the New York State Police, and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance.
The International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section of the Eastern District of New York’s Office is handling the prosecution of this case.
An OCDETF operation
This effort is part of an OCDETF operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF
In-Article Image CreditsLethal dose of Fentanyl on pencil tip via DEA with usage type - Public Domain
Fentanyl Oxy tablets via DEA with usage type - Public Domain
Fentanyl Oxy 30mg tables in bulk via Drug Enforcement Agency with usage type - Public Domain
Caphalon Actiq Oral Transmucosal fentanyl citrate package 600 mcg via Wikimedia Commons by Daniel Tahar with usage type - Creative Commons License. September 7, 2020
Fentanyl. 2 mg. A lethal dose in most people. via Wikimedia Commons by DEA with usage type - Public Domain
Featured Image CreditFentanyl Oxy 30mg tables in bulk via Drug Enforcement Agency with usage type - Public Domain