"Today we unsealed two indictments collectively charging eight defendants—including three Chinese chemical companies and five Chinese nationals—with, among other crimes, conspiring to manufacture and import fentanyl to the United States. These indictments are among the first in the nation —but not the last—involving companies that provide raw chemicals to drug traffickers knowing that these chemicals will be used to make and distribute fentanyl in the United States.
These charges are the culmination of a year-long investigation, which uncovered that the defendant companies manufactured and stockpiled fentanyl precursors—the chemicals and substances used to manufacture fentanyl and employed chemists to help them market and sell the substances.
The defendant companies openly advertised their products all over the world, including on social media platforms. And while the defendants largely sold the components of fentanyl, most of which were ostensibly legal, they did so as conspirators and accomplices, knowing these substances would be used in a fentanyl manufacturing scheme. As this prosecution shows, that is a crime.
This is akin to a company selling the components for a bomb, knowing they would be used to make an explosive. We know too well that the witches brew of fentanyl chemicals cooked by the drug traffickers can be just as deadly.
The defendants sent their chemicals to the U.S. and Mexico by boat and air, using public and private international mail and package carriers. To prevent detection and interception of chemical products at the borders, the defendant companies employed deceptive and fraudulent practices, such as mislabeling packages as other innocuous products such as cosmetics or food additives, falsifying customs forms, and making false declarations at border crossings.
The defendants also disguised known fentanyl precursors to avoid detection and seizure by law enforcement by adding “masking” molecules, thereby changing the chemical signature of the underlying precursor chemicals to make them harder to detect while passing through Customs and other inspections.
These altered substances could evade testing protocols and relevant regulations by appearing to be a new substance. Such masking molecules are easily removed, enabling the purchaser to return the substance to its original form.
The defendants even provided instructions about how to remove the masking molecules, ensuring their customers were able to use the banned precursor chemicals to manufacture fentanyl. And the defendants gave instructions on how to increase the amount of fentanyl the precursors would produce and advice on which chemicals to buy to replace banned precursor products.
Our investigation also revealed the defendants’ connections to Mexican drug cartels. The defendants communicated with suspected associates of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel Jalisco New Generation in Mexico, advertised their “best-selling products in Mexico,” and even maintained warehouses in Mexico to store precursor chemicals.
The chemicals provided by the defendant companies have enabled cartels and other drug trafficking organizations to produce fentanyl in clandestine laboratories in Mexico on a massive scale, for subsequent distribution in the United States and elsewhere. The materials and instructions provided by the defendant companies and companies like them have directly caused and contributed to the influx of deadly fentanyl into the United States.
The defendants hoped that by selling only the components of fentanyl, or by masking the chemical structures of precursors, or mislabeling their products, they could escape scrutiny and accountability. This prosecution proves them wrong.
To the companies and employees that supply fentanyl precursor chemicals knowing they will be used to make illegal fentanyl, you are drug suppliers, and you are also drug traffickers. We will identify you and prosecute you to the full extent of the law.
The charges brought today exemplify our Office’s battle against fentanyl, which is inflicting untold tragedy in New York City, Long Island, and across the nation. Approximately 80,000 Americans died from fentanyl or other synthetic opioids in 2021—more than gun and auto-related deaths combined. We will not rest until this crisis is over.
Thank you to Attorney General Garland, Deputy Attorney General Monaco, and DEA Administrator Milgram for their leadership in combatting the fentanyl crisis. I’d also like to give special thanks to our law enforcement and agency partners, including DEA New York, DEA Mexico, DEA Diversion Control Division, DEA Special Testing and Research Laboratory, United States Customs and Border Protection’s New York field office, Internal Revenue Service’s New York Division, and United States Postal Inspection Services of New York.
I’d also like to thank the team from my Office who have worked tirelessly to protect our community, Francisco Navarro, Erik Paulsen, Chand Edwards-Balfour, and Adam Amir."