- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2018

Four Chinese nationals are among 10 new defendants who were indicted in a widening probe of fentanyl shipments from China to the United States that resulted in the deaths of four people and multiple overdoses, the Department of Justice said Friday.

All told, 32 defendants have been charged in the operation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a North Dakota speech announcing the indictments.

“This was an elaborate and sophisticated conspiracy,” Mr. Sessions said. “They used the internet, about 30 different aliases, cryptocurrency, off-shore accounts, encrypted communications, and they allegedly laundered funds internationally through third parties.”

In October, the Justice Department unsealed an indictment in the Northern District of North Dakota against Jian Zhang. The indictment charged Mr. Zhang and three other Chinese nationals with engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, drug distribution and importation resulting in death and money laundering.

The indictment alleged that over a five-year period, the defendants trafficked large and dangerous quantities of fentanyl to 11 states, including Oregon, Ohio, New Jersey and North Carolina and North Dakota. Those drugs killed people in four different states, according to court documents.

Mr. Sessions said it was the first indictment against Chinese nationals for fentanyl trafficking.

It is not known if the new defendants are facing the same charges as the October defendants.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Treasury Friday announced it had designated Mr. Zhang and his Chinese-based biotechnology company as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker. The designation allows the federal government to block or seize any of his U.S. assets.

Since June 2000, more than 2,100 individuals have been named as significant foreign narcotics traffickers under the Kingpin Act, the Treasury Department said.

“This action will disrupt the flow of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the United States, and serves as a warning that Treasury will continue to target the assets of those who deal in illicit opioids and synthetic narcotics,” Sigal Mandelker, under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

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