Detroit, MI, Man Sentenced to 14 Years in Federal Prison for His Leadership Role in a Drug Trafficking Organization Targeting two of North Dakota’s Native American Reservations
FARGO – United States Attorney Mac Schneider, District of North Dakota, along with United States Attorney Natalie K. Wight, District of Oregon, and Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, announced that Daniel Vivas Ceron, age 42, Columbia, was sentenced by Chief District Court Judge Peter Welte, to 27 years imprisonment, 5 years supervised release, and $11,048.43 in restitution for his role in ‘Operation Denial’.
Ceron was extradited from Panama to the United States on January 25, 2017, with significant assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.
On July 12, 2019, Ceron pled guilty to Continuing Criminal Enterprise, Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances and Controlled Substance Analogues Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury and Death, and Money Laundering Conspiracy.
As part of that plea, Ceron acknowledged that he and Jason Berry led an international fentanyl and fentanyl analogue distribution operation from inside Drummond Correctional Institution in Drummondville, Quebec. Using a cell phone from inside the prison, Ceron and Berry arranged shipments of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from China to Canada and the United States as part of this criminal enterprise. The distribution of these substances led to fatal and non-fatal overdoses in North Dakota, Oregon, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
This case is part of “Operation Denial,” an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation into the international trafficking of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues and was significantly aided by the national and international coordination led by the multi-agency Special Operations Division (S.O.D.) near Washington, DC, as part of “Operation Deadly Merchant.” The investigation started in North Dakota on January 3, 2015, with the overdose death in Grand Forks, ND, of Bailey Henke.
"The sentences announced today, and the suite of related prosecutions that preceded them, reflect the impressive cooperation and dedication of state, local, and federal law enforcement, along with our Canadian partners, to take down a pernicious and deadly network of fentanyl distributors,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable those like Ceron, Berry, Nguyen, and members of their network who injected fentanyl and fentanyl analogues into American society with deadly results. Concerted efforts like Operation Denial demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to eliminating the influx of fentanyl into our communities at their points of origin."
“These defendants are responsible for fentanyl poisoning deaths in North Dakota and several other states, and today’s strong sentence ensures accountability for those crimes,” Schneider said. “This result is a credit to the tireless work and seamless cooperation exhibited by our office’s prosecution team and their law enforcement partners in North Dakota, across the country, and in Canada.”
“Disrupting large drug trafficking networks, like the Ceron Network, is vitally important to our ongoing effort to combat the fentanyl crisis in America and save innocent lives. Networks like these span jurisdictions and stopping them requires robust coordination among many domestic and international partners,” said Natalie Wight, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
“Illicit fentanyl is one of the greatest dangers we’re facing as a country,” said Jamie Holt, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) St. Paul Special Agent in Charge. “The conviction and sentencing of Ceron highlights the strength of our international and state partnerships and the dedicated professionals who spend countless hours combatting a poison that is harmful to many communities and families. HSI St. Paul is steadfast in its efforts to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations and combat the flow of illicit opioids into the United States.”
“This international investigation is an excellent example of the results that can be achieved when multiple law enforcement partners combine their efforts and expertise, and it has had a significant impact for our communities. Thanks to the collaboration of the various stakeholders, we have successfully neutralized a criminal network involved in major trafficking of a highly dangerous substance between Canada and the United States.” – Superintendent Karine Gagné, Acting Criminal Operations Officer, RCMP in Quebec
Operation Denial has led to thirty-one (31) defendants charged in North Dakota and three (3) defendants charged in Oregon. The investigation has resulted in nearly one million in cash and property forfeited from members of the organization. Defendants sentenced or convicted in this case include:
District of North Dakota:
District of Oregon:
On August 31, 2021, the U.S. Department of State offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of People’s Republic of China (PRC) national Jian Zhang, a fugitive in this transnational investigation. Additional fugitives from China include:
1) Na Chu, 37, Pulandian City, Liaoning Province, China
2) Yeyou Chu, 36, Pulandian City, Liaoning Province, China
3) Cuiying Liu, 62, Dezhou City, Shangdong Province, China
4) Keping Zhang, 62, Dezhou City, Shangdong Province, China
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations; North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; IRS Criminal Investigation – Fargo Field Office; Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force; Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Portland Oregon Police Bureau – Drugs and Vice Division, Portland HIDTA Interdiction Task Force; Oregon State Police; and the Grand Forks Police Department.
The prosecutors for this case were Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers, District of North Dakota; Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin, District of Oregon and as a Special Assistant U.S Attorney in North Dakota; and Kaitlin Sahni, Assistant Deputy Chief, and Imani Hutty, Trial Attorney, Criminal Division Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the Justice Department.
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Ages reflected are ages at the time of sentencing.
Terry W. Van Horn 701-297-7458 firstname.lastname@example.org