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: Urban chicken coops a great source for community

Fafards have zero problems with urban hens during pilot project

Study shows early childhood development in Lacombe lagging behind neighbours

Early Years Matter Coalition study shows work needs to be done

Lacombe schools in danger of losing funding over GSA compliance

Education Minister David Eggen said 28 out of 94 accredited funded private schools not in compliance

Urban hens close to being permanent in Lacombe

Council passes first reading of bylaw to extend pilot program permanently

No pumping into Gull Lake for 5 years due to carp concerns

Worries of carp in the Blindman River has put a hold on pumping water into Gull Lake

WATCH: Remembrance Day in Lacombe fills LMC

2018 marked 100 years since the end of First World War

Castor, Forestburg, coal workers get $257,644 to transition to low-carbon economy

Two transition centres will serve seven communities in the Battler River Region

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Fashion Fridays: 5 coats you need this winter!

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Saskatchewan college honours memory of Humboldt Broncos coach

Darcy Haugan wore jersey No. 22 when he was a star player with the Briercrest College Clippers

Liberals to act quickly if Saturday midnight deal deadline breached: source

Oh Friday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members

Police probe several allegations of sex assault at Toronto school

Police say they have learned of other incidents of alleged assault and sexual assault

VIDEO: The definition of a kilogram has officially changed

50-plus countries voted to a ground-breaking overhaul to the international system of measurements

Missing-persons list tops 600 in fire-stricken California

Disaster escalates as officials raised the death toll to 63

Most Read