Fentanyl smuggled from China kills thousands in US
Shared from the 10/20/2018 Charlotte Observer e-Edition
Fentanyl smuggled from China kills thousands in the US
BY DEL QUENTIN WILBER Los Angeles Times
The Zheng drug trafficking organization was hardly clandestine. The Shanghai-based network sold synthetic narcotics, including deadly fentanyl, on websites posted in 35 languages, from Arabic and English to Icelandic and Uzbek.
The Chinese syndicate bragged that its laboratory could “synthesize nearly any” drug and that it churned out 16 tons of illicit chemicals a month. The group was so adept at smuggling, and so brazen in its marketing, that it offered a money-back guarantee to buyers if its goods were seized by
Over the last decade, federal officials say, the Zheng group mailed and shipped fentanyl and similar illicit chemicals to customers in more than 25 countries and 35 U.S. states. U.S. officials say the syndicate’s success, laid bare in a recent federal indictment, partly helps explain America’s skyrocketing death toll from drug overdoses.
Fentanyl, 50 times more potent than heroin, and related laboratory-crafted drugs have become the No. 1 cause of opioid-related overdose deaths. And rogue chemical companies in China – operating openly and outside the reach of U.S. authorities – are the largest single source of the deadly drugs, law enforcement officials say.
“People in labs in China are producing this substance that is killing Americans,” Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein said in an interview. “This is a real crisis. The Chinese government has the ability to stop this if they want to. We believe they should want to do that.”
U.S. officials have pushed Beijing to shut down the
Nearly 29,000 people died last year in the United States from overdoses linked to synthetic opioids, a category that experts say is dominated by fentanyl and its chemical cousins – a staggering surge from the 3,100 such deaths reported in 2013.
One reason for the spike: The drug is so powerful that a sugar-packet-sized bag of fentanyl can contain 500 lethal doses. That also means it can be smuggled through the mail in what officials call micro-shipments that are far harder to identify and interdict than bulkier loads of heroin, cocaine or marijuana.
Chinese companies send fentanyl in small quantities to dealers in the United States or
While total fentanyl seizures more than doubled last year, to 1,196 pounds, officials say far more of the illicit drug is getting through. Some of the biggest fentanyl seizures have been in California because of the Mexican connection.
Last month, for example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized 52 pounds of powdered fentanyl at the Pine Valley checkpoint near San Diego.
This summer, authorities discovered 20,000 fentanyl pills in a hidden compartment of a Mini Cooper at the San Ysidro checkpoint, a week after confiscating 11,500 pills in another vehicle.
U.S. drug dealers also purchase directly from China with a few clicks of a computer mouse on company websites or shop in so-called dark web drug bazaars, where communications are encrypted and dealers often pay with cryptocurrencies or gift cards that are difficult to trace.