Prisoners in Canada among alleged leaders in massive opioid ring: US authorities

It’s being called the most prolific fentanyl-trafficking and money-laundering operations

Two men imprisoned in Canada are accused of playing a leadership role from behind bars in what American authorities are calling one of the world’s most prolific fentanyl-trafficking and money-laundering operations.

The charges in the case, which come as North America grapples with an increasingly deadly opioid crisis, are said to the first in the United States against designated Chinese manufacturers of fentanyl and other opiates.

The U.S. Justice Department says customers bought pure fentanyl and other dangerous drugs online directly from Chinese factories, and inexperienced users would overdose because they didn’t realize the potency of the opioids.

READ: RCMP seize 40,000 fentanyl pills, 132 kgs of cocaine at B.C. port

According to the indictments, Jason Berry and Daniel Ceron ran the Canadian end of the alleged criminal enterprise while imprisoned in the Drummond Institution in Drummondville, Que.

Further details about them were not immediately available, but they are accused of arranging shipments of fentanyl and other drugs from Canada to Florida and Portland Ore., in 2014, according to documents filed with an American court.

The duo are among five Canadians facing charges, U.S. authorities said.

In all, more than a dozen accused from around the world were involved in the manufacture and distribution of tonnes of fentanyl and other powerful narcotics sold in the United States, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Tuesday.

READ: Vancouver police seize millions in fentanyl and heroin

Two Chinese nationals, Xiaobang Yan, 40, and Jian Zhang, 38, were indicted as overall leaders of the group that operated from January 2013 through August 2016.

“The investigations of Yan and Zhang revealed a new and disturbing facet of the opioid crisis in America: Fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are coming into the United States in numerous ways, including highly pure shipments of fentanyl from factories in China directly to U.S. customers who purchase it on the internet,” the U.S. Justice Dept. said in a statement.

“Unwary or inexperienced users often have no idea that they are ingesting fentanyl until it is too late.”

Fentanyl and related opiates are blamed for 20,000 deaths in the U.S. last year and nearly 3,000 more in Canada. Several deaths and serious illness have been tied directly to the alleged ring, U.S. authorities said.

Federal agents were able to identify more than 100 distributors of synthetic opioids involved with Yan’s networks, they said.

“Xiaobing Yan, Jian Zhang and their respective associates represent one of the most significant drug threats facing the country — overseas organized crime groups capable of producing nearly any synthetic drug imaginable, including fentanyl, and who attempt to hide their tracks with web-based sales, international shipments and cryptocurrency transactions,” said Robert Patterson, acting administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

READ: B.C. hits record number of illicit drug overdose deaths : coroner

U.S. officials said Yan kept tabs on legislation and law-enforcement activities in the United States and China, and modified the chemical structures of the fentanyl analogues he made to evade prosecution in the United States.

Assistant Commissioner Joanne Crampton with the RCMP, one of several agencies involved in the investigation, said the force has implemented a national strategy aimed at tackling fentanyl importers, distributors and traffickers.

“Synthetic drugs, in particular fentanyl, are a major threat to both our countries,” Crampton said in Washington. “It is our duty to combat it in every possible way.”

Court documents from the District Court eastern division in North Dakota allege the accused used American, Canadian and virtual currency for their transactions in which they ordered and sold the drugs online via secretive web sites.

“To hide their financial transactions, co-conspirators used off-shore accounts, anonymous virtual currency transactions, and third parties to move money, as well as using encrypted communication applications to discuss financial transactions,” the indictment states.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

WATCH: Servus Credit Union partners with City on new arena

City of Red Deer began final steps towards opening of Servus Credit Union Arena

RCMP search for individual impersonating a police officer

Red Deer teen pulled over by a car flashing red and blue lights

Red Deer Health Foundation raises $1.2 million through Festival of Trees

Festival of Trees enjoyed a ‘Renaissance year,’ said Foundation chair

Toys for Tickets wraps up with 300 gifts for families in need

Citizens donated a range of toys with a total value of $5,600

Two individuals arrested after impaired driving collisions

Red Deer driver crashed into cement flowerbed

Troubled Monk releases new spirit

Troubled Spirit vodka was introduced in early December

New fighter-jet competition to have national ‘economic interest’ requirement

Trudeau government wants to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s with 88 new fighters by as early as 2025

The top-binged shows on Netflix in 2017

Which show did you cheat on your spouse with by watching ahead?

2017 word of the year: Feminism

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017: ‘Feminism’

200 Russians to compete in Olympics as neutrals

The Russian Olympic Committee expects 200 to compete in South Korea

Researchers claim the ‘man flu’ does exist

Review of scientific studies suggests ‘man flu’ may be more intense: researcher

Trudeau appoints Supreme Court chief justice

Prime Minister Trudeau appoints Richard Wagner as Supreme Court chief justice

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

Firefighters protect seaside California towns as blaze rages

A flare-up on the western edge of Southern California’s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday

Most Read