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

Man struck and killed on the Pat Bay Highway

Pedestrian struck while crossing near Mount Newton X Rd in Central Saanich

VicPD cuts school liaison program over budget impasse with Esquimalt

Six officers, including three school liaisons, to be reassigned to frontline duties

WATCH: Officers recognized at 10th anniversary of anti-impaired driving program

Alexa’s Team has grown from 26 members in 2008 to the current 2,400

Joining the new wave of women in trades

Pair of Saanich residents among women joining trades

Affordable housing development leaves neighbours concerned

A 90-unit proposal on Prosser Rd. is before Central Saanich council

WATCH: Officers recognized at 10th anniversary of anti-impaired driving program

Alexa’s Team has grown from 26 members in 2008 to the current 2,400

COLUMN: Stanley Cup playoff second-round predictions

Sidney Crosby and the Penguins continue their quest for their third straight Stanley Cup

B.C. seeks court ruling on new pipeline regulations

Province wants to require permits for any new bitumen transport

LIVE: TSB findings on plane crash that killed former Alberta Premier Jim Prentice

The TSB will announce its findings and the Capital News will follow.

Former child watchdog to head UBC centre on residential schools

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to lead university’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

Saanich MLA says business world prepared her for political arena

Lana Popham says the work will never end on the equality front, but each success makes it easier for the next person

Federal Green Party leader says finances were her biggest career obstacle

Elizabeth May lists her mother as her main role model

Man dead after possible attack near Vancouver casino

A 38-year-old man with ‘serious injures’ was rushed to hospital but died in surgery

Toronto sports fans come together in wake of van attack

Police probe Toronto van attack as details emerge

Most Read