Three Chinese nationals were recently charged for operating China-based websites to sell illicit drugs to the United States and across the globe.
Federal prosecutors in Philadelphia unsealed an indictment against Chen Deyao, Chen Guichun, and Pan Liangtu on 64 counts: two counts for conspiracy to import and distribute controlled substances, and 62 counts for the distribution of powerful synthetic opioids furanyl fentanyl, U-47700, and methoxyacetyl fentanyl, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
Fentanyl, which goes by street names such as China White and Dance Fever, is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. As little as two milligrams is considered a lethal dosage for most people.
Here are a few pictures from today's press conference where U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced charges this Office brought against three Chinese nationals for conspiring to import and distribute deadly opioids. pic.twitter.com/mYDrZAnZlx
— U.S. Attorney EDPA (@USAO_EDPA) October 1, 2019
Methoxyacetyl fentanyl, a variant of fentanyl, is about 15 times stronger than other analogs. Meanwhile, U-47700, which has street names of Pink and Pinky, and furanyl fentanyl are both about seven times more powerful than morphine.
The three Chinese nationals, who often used the same alias “Alex” when operating the websites, enlisted the help of David Landis, a resident and former local deputy sheriff of Montgomery County, as a distributor.
From April 2016 to March 2017, the Chinese nationals accepted online orders and then mailed controlled substances to Landis, who in turn mailed those substances in parcels to customers in the United States and numerous other countries, including Australia, Senegal, Japan and Switzerland.
All in all, Landis sent out about 2,900 packages of controlled substances to destinations around the globe.
Prosecutors pointed out that one package of U-47700 sent to an unnamed individual resulted in serious bodily injury. Five other unnamed individuals in Georgia, Illinois, and Tennessee, who also received U-47700, died from a drug overdose.
Landis, a 10-year veteran in the sheriff’s office, left his job in 2014, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2018, he pleaded guilty in a secret court proceeding.
“Make no mistake: China is waging an undeclared war on our country and our American way of life, with deadly drugs serving as its weapon of choice,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain in the press release.
Today’s indictment is an important step in choking the flow of these drugs into our District. International suppliers beware: you cannot hide behind a computer or evade us by trafficking from a far-away place. Even from halfway around the world, you will be held to account.
— US Attorney William M. McSwain (@USAttyMcSwain) October 1, 2019
McSwain added: “China is supplying the United States with the most potent and deadly fentanyl and other synthetic opioids on the market today.”
Marlon V. Miller, a special agent within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said that anyone in the world with connections to trafficking drugs into the United States should be held accountable.
“Whether you’re selling fentanyl on a corner in Kensington or hiding behind a keyboard in China, Homeland Security Investigations will ensure that justice will be served,” Miller added according to the press release.
Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said: “David Landis’ base of trafficking operations may have been Montgomery County, but his reach was global, spreading poison, misery, and death far and wide.”
According to the press release, the defendants could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if convicted.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been at the forefront in trying to stop the inflow of Chinese-made fentanyl into the United States.
In December last year, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, while meeting with Trump at the G-20 summit in Argentina, promised to crack down on Chinese-made fentanyl.
Most recently, on Aug. 23, Trump tweeted “Fentanyl kills 100,000 Americans a year. President Xi said this would stop—it didn’t.”
According to U.S. government data, prescription opioid pain treatments and drugs like heroin and fentanyl were responsible for 47,600 U.S. deaths in 2017.
At the end of September, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Jim Carroll, Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, and Chief Inspector of the United States Postal Inspection Service Gary Barksdale were in China, where they met with Chinese officials from the National Narcotics Control Commission, and the Ministry of Public Security.
According to a White House statement, Carroll secured commitments from China to “take further steps and law enforcement action to crack down on illicit fentanyl production and trafficking.” Measures that China would undertake include expanding detection and narcotics laboratory capabilities and improving tracking of postal shipments.
Carroll, in an interview with Fox News, expressed doubt about China’s promises.
“I was one of those skeptics and I still am skeptical. It’s time for them to act. Time is up. They’re on the clock,” he added.