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

“Does Kirby care?” Heiltsuk Nation using geo-targeted ads in Houston, Texas for justice

The Heiltsuk Tribal Council has called out Kirby Corporation for the Nathan E. Stewart oil spill

“No excuse” for killing of two young grizzly cubs

Reader hopeful someone will come forward with information

UPDATE: U.S. firm fined $2.9M for fuel spill that soiled B.C. First Nation territory

The Nathan E. Stewart spilled 110,000 litres of diesel and heavy oils in October 2016

No delivery services hard on local families

New parents Candace Knudsen and Bjorn Samuelsen spent five weeks away from home

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

UPDATE: West Kelowna fawn euthanized, not claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer has been euthanized after a suitable home was not found in time

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Most Read