Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at an announcement in Cleveland, Ohio, announced that the United States Department of Justice had indicted two Chinese citizens for running a massive drug trafficking organization that shipped drugs from China to 25 countries. During the announcement, the Department of Justice unveiled a 43-count indictment accusing the duo of drug trafficking crimes, continuing a criminal enterprise of money laundering and dozens of related crimes.
The duo, a father and son named Guanghua and Fujing Zheng, allegedly operated a drug trafficking operation in China as early as 2008. However, according to the information revealed in the indictment, the father and son’s business really took off in the United States in 2012. It increased until 2018 when the Drug Enforcement Administration raided one of the Zheng DTO shippers in the United States.
At the Ohio event, Attorney General Jeff Sessions stood beside the heads of many branches of law enforcement involved in the operation that targeted the Zheng’s drug trafficking operation. This included the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Acting Administrator, Uttam Dhillon; Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Detroit Field Office, Timothy Plancon; Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Steve Francis; Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation department, Ryan Korner; and Justin Herdman, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
- Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance Analogues Resulting in Death;
- Conspiracy to Import Controlled Substances and Controlled Substance Analogues Resulting in Death;
- Conspiracy to Manufacture and Distribute Controlled Substance Analogues Resulting in Death;
- Continuing Criminal Enterprise;
- Six counts of Manufacture of Acetyl Fentanyl for the Purpose of Unlawful Importation;
- Manufacture and Distribution of U-47700 for the Purpose of Unlawful Importation;
- Two counts of Manufacture and Distribution of 4-CL-PVP for the Purpose of Unlawful Importation;
- Three counts of Manufacture and Distribution of Dibutylone for the Purpose of Unlawful Importation;
- Four counts of Manufacture and Distribution of ADB-FUBINACA for the Purpose of Unlawful Importation;
- Creating and Distributing a Counterfeit Substance;
- Knowing and Intentional Adulteration of Drugs;
- Distributing Controlled Substances by Means of the Internet;
- Distributing a Controlled Substance by Means of the Internet;
- 15 Counts of Advertising Controlled Substances by Means of the Internet;
- Money Laundering Conspiracy;
- Four counts of International Promotional Money Laundering.
These federal agencies intercepted packages ordered by customers in the United States, such as Leroy Shuarod Steele, an Ohio resident who recently received a prison sentence for ordering fentanyl and selling it to someone who fatally overdosed in Akron. Steele helped authorities identify his suppliers. During the investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration employed various methods to identify the suspected drug traffickers.
Although they arrested several of the Zheng’s co-conspirators in the United States using the same tactics seen in the majority of similar cases, some of their methods have not yet been revealed. Authorities have seized several of the sites the father and son allegedly used. They intercepted packages. But they may have accessed the email addresses of the suspected traffickers. Through some of the duo’s front companies, buyers often contacted the Zheng son via email. The son allegedly handled the drug trafficking and the father allegedly handled the money and some additional logistics. Federal Authorities revealed some of the email addresses that belonged to the DTO. They also revealed, in some cases, both sides of a conversation between a buyer and Fujing Zheng.
Fujing Zheng accepted various forms of payment but encouraged customers to use Bitcoin for the safety of both parties. Fujing Zheng eventually switched to Protonmail, according to the indictment. The indictment redacted Fujing Zheng’s most frequently used email address, though. But also revealed both sides of several conversations that had taken place over the email address that law enforcement redacted. Since both the father and son are still free in China, United States law enforcement may have taken steps to prevent evidence destruction. Alternatively, the federal agencies working the case have access to an account the Zheng partners are actively using.
Not long before the Zheng indictment, a supplier in Massachusetts pleaded guilty to receiving packages from the Zheng DTO and reshipping the packages to customers in the United States. The shipping tactics was employed after the Zheng son learned that Customs and Border Protection was taking too many packages. He stopped shipping packages directly to customers and shipped them to a bulk shipper in Massachusetts instead. He also advertised this to customers; he pointed out that if customs seized a package, they would not have the customer’s address. Only the address of his shipper.
The shipper went down alongside several drug traffickers connected to the DTO. And then the Drug Enforcement Administration seized the sites the Zheng DTO used to advertise Controlled Substances and Controlled Substance Analogues. And then the Department of Justice named both the father and the son in a 43-count indictment. If China extradites the alleged traffickers, both face life imprisonment if convicted.