Five Canadians — along with three U.S. residents and two Chinese nationals — have been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on charges of making and selling highly addictive fentanyl to Americans over the internet.
Chinese nationals Xiaobing Yan, 40, and Jian Zhang, 38, were charged with conspiring to manufacture and distribute large quantities of fentanyl and similar drugs into the United States, the Justice Department said Tuesday. They were charged in separate indictments unsealed on Monday in Mississippi and North Dakota.
"For the first time, we have indicted major Chinese fentanyl traffickers who have been using the internet to sell fentanyl and fentanyl analogs to drug traffickers and individual customers in the United States," Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.
Rosenstein described a "money laundering … and international drug conspiracy" that brought fentanyl and other drugs into the U.S. from China.
"Agents and prosecutors traced the source of those illegal drugs … finding they had gone through Oregon and Canada," he said.
Rosenstein did not name the Canadian suspects, but commended the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for its efforts in the investigation, which also involved U.S. agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Fentanyl trafficking is a worldwide problem — and clearly knows no borders," said RCMP Assistant Commissioner Joanne Crampton.
A spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Justice told CBC News the following Quebec natives were indicted, though their locations and the specific allegations in relation to the indictment were not immediately clear:
- Jason Joey Berry, 34.
- Xuan Cahn Nguyen, 38.
- Marie Um, 37.
- Vannek Um, 39.
- Linda Van, 25.
Berry is already serving a prison sentence for previous drug convictions, according to a recent Vice.com report.
The suspects also include two residents of Florida and a resident of New Jersey who, like the Canadians, were indicted in connection with Zhang's case.
An analog is a drug that is chemically similar in makeup to another.
Drug czar nominee withdraws
Earlier Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said his drug czar nominee, Rep. Tom Marino, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, had withdrawn his name from consideration.
Marino was cited in a joint Washington Post-CBS 60 Minutes report on Sunday as spearheading legislation to neuter the Drug Enforcement Administration's power to crack down on opioid manufacturers who were flooding the market with the addictive painkillers.
The U.S. is dealing with a major epidemic of opioid overdoses. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic painkiller.