While in Cleveland, Ohio, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday the unsealing of a 43-count indictment in federal court in Cleveland, which charges two Chinese citizens with operating a conspiracy that manufactured and shipped deadly fentanyl analogues and 250 other drugs to at least 25 countries and 37 states. The indictment also alleges the drugs sold by the group directly led to the fatal overdoses of two people in Akron, Ohio. The charges follow a joint investigation, which included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Fujing Zheng, aka Gordon Jin, 35, and his father Guanghua Zheng, 62, both of whom reside in Shanghai, China, are charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to import controlled substances into the United States, operating a continued criminal enterprise, money laundering and other crimes. The charges carry a potential sentence of life imprisonment because the drugs involved resulted in death, and the defendants’ conduct qualifies for an enhancement under the kingpin statute.
“Fentanyl and its analogues are the number one killer drug in America today, and most of them come from China,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “That’s why the Department of Justice under President Donald Trump has taken historic new steps against the threat of Chinese fentanyl. In October, we announced the first-ever indictments of Chinese nationals for fentanyl trafficking; 32 defendants have been charged in those cases. Today we are announcing an indictment of the leaders of the Zheng drug trafficking organization based in China, who the indictment alleges sold drugs that have killed at least two Ohioans… By cutting off fentanyl and its analogues at the source, we can save American lives.”
According to the indictment, the Zhengs and others used numerous companies, including Global United Biotechnology, Golden Chemicals, Golden RC, Cambridge Chemicals, Wonda Science, and others, to manufacture and distribute hundreds of controlled substances, including fentanyl analogues such as carfentanil, acetyl fentanyl, furanyl fentanyl, and others. They created and maintained numerous websites to advertise and sell illegal drugs in more than 35 languages.
From 2008 to the present, the Zheng drug trafficking organization (Zheng DTO) engaged in this conspiracy from its base of operations in Shanghai. The organization claimed to ship “over 16 tonnes of chemicals every month” from its “own laboratory” and to “synthesize nearly any chemical on a bespoke basis in any quantity.”
The Zheng DTO touted its ability to create custom-ordered drugs and avoid detection from customs and law enforcement when shipping the drugs. The Zheng DTO explained in emails and online that it had “special ways” to “go through customs safely” in “USA, Russia, Europe,” and other locations around the world. If customs still managed to seize the parcels, the DTO promised it would “re-ship free.”
The Zheng DTO used co-conspirators in other countries, including the United States, to receive, repackage, and redistribute the drug shipments, thereby hiding their Chinese origin. For example, it used companies run by Massachusetts-based co-conspirator Bin Wang to smuggle drugs past customs agents in China and the United States. Wang then shipped the drugs to customers across the country.
Wang has pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy and is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 13.
The Zheng DTO has sent millions of lethal doses of fentanyl analogues and other drugs linked to overdoses in the United States and around the world.