An award of up to $5 million is being offered by the U.S. State Department for information regarding a Chinese fentanyl trafficker.
Zhang Jian, 42, a key leader of a transnational criminal organization that manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs from at least four known labs in China, advertised illicit drugs on the internet to customers in the United States and Canada, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The drugs are alleged to have caused the overdose deaths of four individuals in North Carolina, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Oregon in 2014 and 2015, according to a 2017 federal indictment (pdf). During the two years, five individuals in North Carolina and Oregon sustained serious bodily injuries as well.
Zhang’s organization began to operate in about January 2013, prosecutors said. Since that time, it has allegedly sent thousands of orders of fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, and other illicit drugs, as well as pill presses, stamps, or dies used to shape drugs into pills. Those items were shipped out through the mail or international parcel delivery services.
Zhang, also known as “Hong Kong Zaron,” was indicted with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and fentanyl analogs and other related counts in 2017. He faced additional charges, including international money laundering conspiracy in a 2018 superseding indictment (pdf).
In April 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department froze Zhang’s U.S. assets and sanctioned his biotechnology company Zaron Bio-Tech (Asia) Limited. The company, which was registered in Hong Kong but operated in China, was allegedly used by Zhang to “facilitate the unlawful importation of fentanyl and other controlled substances into the United States.”
The $5 million bounty, offered by the State Department’s Transnational Organized Crimes Rewards Program, seeks information that will lead to Zhang’s location, arrest, or conviction, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in an Aug. 30 statement. To date, the State Department has paid more than $135 million in rewards.
“We hope that this reward will encourage those with valuable information to contact DEA to bring Mr. Zhang to justice,” La Verne Hibbert, acting special agent in charge at DEA Miami Field Division, said in a statement.
“This is an example of the commitment DEA has to working w/ LE partners to dismantle drug trafficking orgs & keeping communities safe. This reward will encourage those w/ info to contact #DEA to bring Zhang to justice,” said Acting Chief Hibbert @StateDept https://t.co/i1AYCBUwvF pic.twitter.com/pSK6gbPJXp
— DEAMiami (@DEAMIAMIDiv) August 30, 2021
Zhang’s case underscores America’s drug epidemic. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 93,331 U.S. residents died from a drug overdose in 2020, with 69,170 of them involving synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl.
Fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin, according to the CDC.
In 2019, the Chinese regime introduced a ban on fentanyl and its analogs. However, the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) found in its report published on Aug. 24 that China has continued to be the “primary country of origin” for illicit fentanyl trafficked into the United States.
The USCC report also noted that Chinese traffickers are known to export fentanyl precursors to Mexican drug cartels, who then make the drug and move it to the United States. Chinese money launderers have also aided the cartels in their criminal operations.
In April, a Chinese national was sentenced to 14 years for laundering tens of millions of dollars in drug money for Latin American cartels. In early August, another Chinese national was given a seven-year sentence for running a money-laundering network spanning several countries.
Several Canadian and U.S. nationals were also charged in connection to Zhang’s organization, according to the 2018 superseding indictment. Four of Zhang’s Chinese associates—Chu Na, Chu Yeyou, Liu Cuiying, and Zhang Keping—were also charged.
The DEA stated on Aug. 30 that some of the U.S. nationals have been sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment.
Prosecutors alleged that Zhang and other co-defendants used cryptocurrency and offshore accounts to conceal their financial transactions. They also used encrypted communication and aliases to mask their identity.
If convicted, Zhang would face life imprisonment and $12.5 million in fines, prosecutors said.