Before a Federal Court in Ohio, two Chinese nationals were charged for conducting a severe darknet criminal operation. The charges are 43 counts of conspiracy to manufacturing and distribution of lethal fentanyl analogs and over 200 darknet drugs in the U.S. and at least 25 countries. They were also charged with money laundering conspiracy.
The charges also allege that the narcotics distributed by the group caused the fatal overdoses of two Akron residents. The consequences of these deaths could mean life imprisonment for both of them. The activities of the defendants qualify them as a Kingpin. Their arraignment in court was announced by the Attorney General from the Department of Justice Criminal Division, Jeff Sessions.
A 35-year-old man named Fujing Zheng (AKA Gordon Jin) and his 62-year-old father named Guanghua Zheng, both from Shanghai, used many companies in their activities. They also established and maintained different accounts on various darknet marketplaces to advertise as well as sell prohibited drugs in over 30 languages.
In 2008 the defendants formed an organization Zheng DTO, based in Shanghai to enhance their operations. Prosecutors’ alleged that the organization distributed over 10 tons of chemicals and vast quantities of drugs every month through the dark web. Similarly, the shipping of the controlled substances emanates from their laboratory.
Per the company emails and online ads, they boasted of unique ways to avoid detection from the customs and law enforcement around the world. One of their strategies was to create a custom-ordered drug when shipping the narcotics. Like most darknet vendors, they promised to re-ship the controlled substances for free if customs officials confiscated the packages.
To hide their Chinese citizenship, the organization employed co-conspirators in other nations (including the U.S.), to collect, repackage as well as redistribute the narcotics shipment. For instance, they engaged companies operated by a Massachusetts resident named Bin Wang to smuggle fentanyl analogs past customs officials in China and the U.S. Furthermore, Wang then distributed the fentanyl analogs to customers in the United States.
According to the report, Wan was caught by the customs officials and was arraigned in a court where he pleaded guilty for the part he played in the conspiracy. His sentence is scheduled for late November.
Per investigators, the Zheng DTO distributed large quantities of deadly fentanyl analogs and other narcotics. Their drug was in connection with the overdoses in the U.S. and other nations. With the increasing fentanyl overdoses and alarming death rate, in Northeast, Ohio, Federal agents shifted their focus solely on darknet vendors selling deadly narcotics.
Three years ago Leroy Steele ordered the acetyl fentanyl from the Zheng DTO. The drug shipped to Steele and as a result the two overdose deaths of 37-year-old Thomas Rauh and 27-year-old Carrie Debbie, are being linked to these two directly.
Leroy Steele was thereafter arrested as well as indicted for drug offenses. He was later sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
Despite the increasing fentanyl death rate in the United States and their drugs resulting in more, these two men continued in the production and distribution of drugs. Although the Chinese government banned all synthetic narcotics, the organization would use its hired chemical skills to produce a new fentanyl analog, that had a similar chemical structure. In this manner, the organization entirely bypasses Chinas prohibition on international drugs sales.
The Zheng DTO made the use of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin in laundering its drug proceeds. The digital currency enabled them to transfer their profits from drug sales into and out of their bank accounts in China, as well as, Hong Kong. This method was employed to circumvent the restrictions of currency and reporting requirements in China. If convicted, it is unclear what will happen. Will they be deported; will they be exatradited for sentenced in China, or will they be sentenced in America.
This case was prosecuted by the Assistant U.S Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Mathew J. Cronin together with Stephen Sola the Deputy Chief of Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Department.