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Friday, May 24, 2024

Treasury Sanctions China- and Mexico-Based Enablers of Counterfeit, Fentanyl-Laced Pill Production

Facilitation of equipment importation by bad actors is sometimes attempted in a manner designed to evade law enforcement scrutiny, which can include the mislabeling of shipments, the use of circuitous shipment routes, and the shipment of equipment parts in piecemeal fashion.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has today sanctioned 17 individuals and entities involved in the international proliferation of equipment used to produce illicit drugs. These targets are directly or indirectly involved in the sale of pill press machines, die molds, and other equipment used to impress counterfeit trade markings of legitimate pharmaceuticals onto illicitly produced pills, often laced with fentanyl, frequently destined for U.S. markets.

“Treasury’s sanctions target every stage of the deadly supply chain fueling the surge in fentanyl poisonings and deaths across the country,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl constitute a leading cause of these deaths, devastating thousands of American families each year. We remain committed to using all authorities against enablers of illicit drug production to disrupt this deadly global production and counter the threat posed by these drugs.”

These designations, which target seven entities and six individuals based in China and one entity and three individuals based in Mexico, would not have been possible without the cooperation, support and ongoing collaboration among OFAC; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), including the Special Operations Division; Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and its El Paso Field Office; and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. These partnerships highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s strengthened whole-of-government offensive to save lives by disrupting illicit fentanyl supply chains around the globe. Pertaining to Mexico-based persons sanctioned today, this action was also coordinated closely with the Government of Mexico, including the Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit).

Pill Press and Counterfeit Pill Typology

A pill press — also called a tablet press or a tableting machine — is a mechanical device that compresses powdered substances into tablets of uniform size and weight. The U.S. government regulates pill press machine importation. These machines vary in size and capacity, each of which can produce thousands of pills daily. The lack of controls and safeguards in illicit pill production often results in inconsistent and lethal dosages.

Illicit drugs in pill form, including those laced with fentanyl, may be blank or bear custom impressions. They may also be counterfeits of scheduled drugs, bearing trademarked wordmarks without authorization, such as “M30” for schedule II oxycodone products or “Xanax” for schedule IV alprazolam products.

Manufacturing illicit drugs in pill form requires a pill press machine, a controlled substance, and die molds — metallic pill press components bearing impressions that are punched onto pills. A die is fixed to a pill press machine in order to punch repeated impressions during pill mass-production. If the impressions on a die and on the pills it punches mimic trademarked pharmaceuticals, the die and impressed pills are counterfeit.

Facilitation of equipment importation by bad actors is sometimes attempted in a manner designed to evade law enforcement scrutiny, which can include the mislabeling of shipments, the use of circuitous shipment routes, and the shipment of equipment parts in piecemeal fashion.

Designations Announced May 30, 2023:

Today, OFAC designated Chinese pill press supplier Youli Technology Development Co., Ltd. (尤里科技发展有限公司) (Youli) along with three Youli-affiliated Chinese nationals, Guo Chunyan (郭春艳), Guo Yunnian (郭运年), and Guo Ruiguang (郭瑞光), all located in Huizhou, China. Youli has shipped pill press machinery to individuals in the United States involved in the manufacture of counterfeit pills. Youli ships the machinery using techniques intended to evade law enforcement scrutiny. In addition, Youli has shipped scheduled pharmaceuticals to the United States for counterfeit pill manufacturing. Guo Chunyan and Guo Yunnian have supplied pill presses and dies to drug traffickers operating in the United States, including those involved with fentanyl-laced pills production.

OFAC designated Youli, Guo Chunyan, and Guo Yunnian pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14059 for having engaged in, or attempted to engage in, activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production. OFAC designated Guo Ruiguang pursuant to E.O. 14059 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Youli.

OFAC also designated Shenzhen, China-located Yason General Machinery Co., Ltd. (亚新通用机械有限公司) (Yason), Hong Kong-registered but Shenzhen, China-based Yason Electronics Technology Co., Limited (亞新電子科技有限公司) (Yason Electronics), and Nanchang, China-located Shenzhen Yason General Machinery Co., Ltd. Nanchang Branch (深圳市亚新通⽤机械有限公司南昌分公司) (Yason Nanchang), interrelated Chinese companies implicated in the supply of press equipment internationally. OFAC additionally designated Yason and Yason Electronics company official Fei Yiren (费亿人) (Fei), a Chinese national.

Yason sells pill press-related equipment and has worked with a Mexico-based pill equipment supplier and contact who previously provided equipment to a Sinaloa Cartel-linked individual. This individual used the machines to create superlabs in Mexico with the capacity to produce millions of fentanyl-laced pills weekly. In 2017, Yason Electronics sent a pill press machine — in multiple packages and via the United States — to the contact in Mexico, the intended buyer of the equipment.

OFAC designated Yason and Yason Electronics pursuant to E.O. 14059 for having engaged in, or attempted to engage in, activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production. OFAC designated Fei pursuant to E.O. 14059 for being or having been a leader or official of Yason and of Yason Electronics. OFAC designated Yason Nanchang pursuant to E.O. 14059 for being owned, controlled, or directed by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Fei.

Today’s designations also include Mexpacking Solutions (Mexpacking), a Chihuahua, Mexico-based business that sells pill presses and other equipment and is controlled by a Sinaloa Cartel pill press supplier. The business has been used as cover for an individual involved with making fentanyl-laced pills and with assisting Mexico-based cartel members with pill press operations. Goods from Mexpacking were shipped to another pill press equipment supplier involved with coordinating shipments of pill press machines and parts to drug trafficking organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel.

Along with Mexpacking, OFAC designated three related individuals, all Mexican nationals: Mario Ernesto Martinez Trevizo (Martinez), Cinthia Adriana Rodriguez Almeida (Rodriguez), and Ernesto Alonso Macias Trevizo (Macias). Martinez, a sales representative with Mexpacking, as of late 2022, was responsible for managing activities of a pill press supply network in Mexico, the head of which supplied pill press equipment the Sinaloa Cartel used. In this role, Martinez maintained business communications with China-based supplier Yason Electronics, which between 2019 and 2022 provided the network with numerous pill press machines and “M30” die molds. Rodriguez, as of late 2022, had a senior role in the pill press equipment supply network, which likewise necessitates coordination with Chinese supplier Yason Electronics. Between 2015 and 2021 Rodriguez also assisted with illicit drug production, including illicit drugs in pill form. Macias is a sales associate for Mexpacking.

OFAC designated Mexpacking, Martinez, and Rodriguez pursuant to E.O. 14059 for having engaged in, or attempting to engage in, activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a significant risk of materially contributing to, the international proliferation of illicit drugs or their means of production. OFAC designated Macias pursuant to E.O. 14059 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Mexpacking.

Lastly, OFAC designated online business Tdpmolds, an entity established and controlled by Zhao Dongdong (赵冬冬) (Zhao), a Chinese national located in Yantai, China. In addition to Tdpmolds, OFAC designated Chinese nationals and entities Zhao, Pan Hao (潘昊) (Pan), Yantai Yixun International Trade Co., Ltd. (烟台易迅国际贸易有限公司) (Yantai Yixun), and Yantai Mei Xun Trade Co., Ltd. (烟台美讯商贸有限公司) (Yantai Mei Xun).

As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons. U.S. persons may face civil or criminal penalties for violations of E.O. 14059.

Read more at the Treasury Department

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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