The U.S. Department of Justice indicted three Chinese citizens with several charges involving the delivery of synthetic opioids that led to fatal overdoses, including one in Putnam County.
Tri-DENT drug agents and Putnam County officials assisted in a multi-year investigation that included may local, state and federal agencies throughout the U.S.
“This is a prime example of working with our law enforcement partners (local, state and federal) to combat the ongoing opioid problems that plagues not only our local area, but also our nation and other parts of the world,” a Tri-DENT official wrote in a press statement.
According to the investigation, synthetic opioids were being sent from China to Pennsylvania and distributed throughout the U.S.
U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced Deyao Chen, Guichun Chen and Liangtu Pan aka Liang Pan, all of China, have been charged by indictment with the following: conspiracy to import controlled substances (one count); conspiracy to distribute controlled substances (one count); and distribution of furanyl fentanyl, U-47700, and methoxyacetyl fentanyl — all powerful synthetic opioids (62 counts).
According to the indictment, in or about April 2016 through on or about March 22, 2017, Deyao Chen, Guichun Chen and Liangtu Pan operated through websites located in China and offered controlled substances for sale, including furanyl fentanyl, U-47700 and methoxyacetyl fentanyl. The defendants often used the same alias, “Alex,” when using these websites.
Customers accessed these websites and selected the controlled substances they wanted to purchase, and the defendants directed the customers to different websites to pay for their orders.
Upon receipt of payment from the customers, the defendants emailed the customers’ orders to David Landis, charged elsewhere, who was a distributor residing in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and a former Montgomery County deputy sheriff.
The defendants mailed controlled substances from China to Landis in quantities sufficient to meet the orders from their internet customers. Landis would then mail the controlled substances via the U.S. Postal Service to customers located throughout the United States and in numerous other countries. In less than a year, Landis mailed approximately 2,900 packages of controlled substances to customers on behalf of the defendants. Landis has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Of the 62 distribution counts set forth in the indictment, one count alleges distribution of U-47700 to an individual which resulted in serious bodily injury. The remaining 61 distribution counts allege the defendants distributed U-47700 and/or furanyl fentanyl to numerous individuals, including five individuals in Putnam County, Illinois, Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee who received these illegal substances and later overdosed and died with these controlled substances in their systems.
“China is supplying the United States with the most potent and deadly fentanyl and other synthetic opioids on the market today,” McSwain said. “Today’s indictment is an important step in choking the flow of these deadly drugs into the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. International suppliers beware: you cannot hide behind a computer or evade our detection by drug trafficking from a far-away place. Even if you are halfway around the world, you will be held to account for your crimes.”
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum possible sentence of life imprisonment.