DEA 2016 Intelligence Brief: Counterfeit Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyls: A Global Threat

Communities across America are not the only things forever altered by the opioid crisis. As reported by Bloomberg News, fentanyl and the ever-growing list of its analogues has cut a wide path of destruction into the lives of its users and their loved ones, but it has also created a new kind of 21st-century drug kingpin. A person who can make huge profits by gaming international laws to create and sell new chemicals before they can be made illegal.

Xiaobing Yan is one such man. A Chinese national indicted in September 2017 by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Yan has been charged with two counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute multiple controlled substances, including fentanyl and several analogues, and seven counts of manufacturing and distributing the drugs in specific instances. The DOJ contends that Yan operated at least two chemical plants in China that produced a slew of illicit drugs on a massive scale. By carefully monitoring legislation and law enforcement in both the U.S. and China, Yan would modify the chemical structure of the drugs that he sold to keep the chemicals he was producing one step ahead of the law.

When a reporter from Bloomberg News spoke with Yan at his home in Wuhan, China he expressed shock at the indictment. “This is horrifying,” Yan said. “Their investigation must have gone wrong.” While Yan sees himself as a law-abiding businessman, authorities have linked the man and his company (formerly 9W Technology Co., but renamed in 5A Pharmatech Co. in March 2016) to over 100 different distributors across the U.S. and in at least 20 other countries. In the indictment filed against Yan in federal court, the federal government listed 22 different chemicals that they alleged Yan illegally shipped into the U.S. dating as far back as May 2010. Four of the listed chemicals are fentanyl analogues.

So confident of the supporting evidence against Yan, the U.S. added him to its “consolidated priority organization target” list. The list is comprised of individuals believed to head the world’s largest drug trafficking and money laundering networks. The DOJ considered the indictment of Yan to be a major step in the fight against fentanyl although no actions have been taken or may ever be taken by the Chinese government to make Yan available to U.S. prosecution. Justice has been brought against some of the distributors in this case including Roslyn Demetrius Chapman, who received a sentence of 199 months in prison, and Rasheed Ali Muhammad, who received a sentence of 1,440 months in prison.