WASHINGTON – China-based companies and their employees were charged with crimes related to fentanyl and methamphetamine production in eight Florida indictments, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
The charges alleged the distribution of synthetic opioids and sales resulting from chemicals used to make the drugs, the department said.
The indictments built on prosecutions announced in June and mark the second set of prosecutions to charge China-based chemical manufacturing companies and nationals of China for trafficking fentanyl precursor chemicals into the United States.
“We know that the global fentanyl supply chain, which ends with the deaths of Americans, often starts with chemical companies in China,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing the indictments. “The United States government is focused on breaking apart every link in that chain, getting fentanyl out of our communities, and bringing those who put it there to justice.”
None of the individuals have been arrested, Garland said. But the department has a long memory and the intention is to bring the defendants to justice, he said.
The Treasury Department imposed sanctions Tuesday that cut off 28 people and entities in China and Canada from using the U.S. financial system, said Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of treasury. The department also identified and blocked a dozen virtual wallets associated with those people, he said.
Five indictments in the middle district of Florida charged five Chinese corporations and eight Chinese nationals with the illegal importation of fentanyl and fentanyl-related chemicals into the United States.
The defendants used fake shipping labels and special delivery procedures to ensure the illicit chemicals went undetected, according to the indictment. Eight people were charged with money laundering. The Chinese companies demonstrated past success delivering a stable supply of product to clients in Mexico for years, the indictment said.
Three indictments in the southern district of Florida charged three Chinese companies and four officers and employees with fentanyl trafficking, synthetic opioid trafficking, precursor chemical importation, defrauding the U.S. Postal Service, and making and using counterfeit postage.
“The international dimension to the deadly scourge of fentanyl requires the all-of-government response that we are delivering today,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, and a dose of as little as two milligrams can kill a grown adult, according to the Justice Department. From February 2022 to January 2023, at least 105,263 Americans died of drug overdoses, the majority of which involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and drugs related to fentanyl, according to the department.
"Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced," Garland said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DOJ announces 8 fentanyl cases against Chinese companies, nationals