The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed a 43-count indictment against two Chinese citizens for operating a conspiracy to manufacture and ship over 250 synthetic drugs, including fentanyl analogues, to at least 25 countries and 37 states. Shanghai residents Fujing Zheng and his father, Guanghua Zheng, were both charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to import controlled substances, operating a continued criminal enterprise, money laundering, and other crimes.
The indictment listed only a fraction – 36 – of the drugs the Zhengs created and sold since at least January 1, 2008. Included on the list were seven fentanyl analogues, including carfentanil, a drug 10,000 more powerful than morphine. The Zhengs operated mirror websites that translated their website into 38 languages which allowed them to sell drugs to individuals on every single inhabited continent.
According to the indictment, the Zhengs used various methods to ensure that their drugs slipped passed customs officials, including false manifests, using freight forwarders, hiding narcotics within bulk shipments of legal goods, and using reshippers in destination countries. For some time, the Zhengs used companies owned by Bin Wang that operated out of a warehouse in Woburn, Massachusetts. Wang pleaded guilty to ten counts earlier in August for his role and is scheduled for sentencing on November 13, 2018.
Undercover law enforcement emailed the ZHENG Drug Trafficking Organization on April 16, 2018 asking if they could manufacture counterfeit oxycodone pills using U-48800, a novel synthetic opioid said to be similar to heroin or fentanyl. The company’s reply was to ask how many tablets would they be buying. On April 20, 2018, undercover law enforcement enquired about the manufacturing of counterfeit Adderall pills with the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) replaced by Dibutyone, a stimulant drug of the amphetamine, phenethylamine, and cathinone drug classes. Again, the reply from the Zhengs was to confirm that they could make these pills. Further into the email discussion, the Zhengs responded by saying, “We made pills for USA customers before.” The Zhengs manufactured 50,000 counterfeit Adderall pills, and illegally shipped the pills into the United States.
On July 27, 2018, undercover law enforcement again asked for a quote for some counterfeit pills. This time they wanted to know if fake versions of two cancer drugs – Tarceva and Afinitor – could be created, but this time they wanted BK-EDBP, a synthetic cathinone commonly referred to as “bath salts,” to replace the API. The Zhengs confirmed they would manufacturing adulterated cancer drugs with deadly synthetic drugs and said, “Yes, we can do so.”
The combined efforts of a considerable number of agencies, from the local to the federal level, made this case possible. Prosecution of this case will be handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Cronin of the Northern District of Ohio and Justice Department Criminal Division Trial Attorneys Adrienne Rose of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and Deputy Unit Chief Stephen Sola of the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.