Three Chinese chemical manufacturing companies and five employees charged


Defendants allegedly imported fentanyl precursors into the United States and worked with Mexican cartels to manufacture and distribute fentanyl in the United States; prosecution is among the first of its kind

Date: June 23, 2023


Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, two indictments were unsealed that detail criminal conspiracies by companies and employees based in China to manufacture and distribute fentanyl in the United States. This prosecution is among the first ever in the United States to charge Chinese chemical manufacturing companies with supplying precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl to the United States.

The first indictment charges Anhui Rencheng Technology Co. (Rencheng), Ltd., Anhui Moker New Material Technology Co., Shutong Wang and Shifang Ruan with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute fentanyl, manufacture of fentanyl, and other related offenses. In addition, the indictment charges those same defendants, as well as Xinyu Zhao and Yue Gao, with illegally concealing their activities, including through customs fraud and introducing misbranded drugs into the United States marketplace. The indictment also charges Rencheng, Wang, and Ruan with conspiracy to distribute butonitazene, a controlled substance.

The second indictment charges Hefei GSK Trade Co., Ltd, also known as "Hebei Gesuke Trading Co. Ltd." and "Hebei Sinaloa Trading Co., Ltd.", and Ruiqing Li with similar offenses, including conspiracy to manufacture and distribute fentanyl, manufacture of fentanyl, conspiracy to distribute a List I chemical, distribution of a List I chemical, customs fraud conspiracy, introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, and distribution of metonitazene, a controlled substance.

Merrick Garland, United States Attorney General, Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lisa O. Monaco, United States Deputy Attorney General, and Anne Milgram, Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Keechant, L. Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department, and Steven A. Nigrelli, Acting Superintendent, New York State Police, announced the charges.

"As alleged, the defendants knowingly distributed the chemical building blocks of fentanyl to the United States and Mexico, even providing advice on how they should be used to manufacture this dangerous drug which inflicts untold tragedy in New York City, Long Island and across the nation," stated United States Attorney Peace. "This prosecution shows that the companies and individuals who fuel our nation's deadly opioid epidemic—wherever they are located—will be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

"When I announced in April that the Justice Department had taken significant enforcement actions against the Sinaloa Cartel, I promised that the Justice Department would never forget the victims of the fentanyl epidemic," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. "I also promised that we would never stop working to hold accountable those who bear responsibility for it. That includes not only going after the leaders of the Cartels, their drug and gun traffickers, their money launderers, security forces, and clandestine lab operators. It also includes stopping the Chinese chemical companies that are supplying the cartels with the building blocks they need to manufacture deadly fentanyl."

"Today's announcement is a down payment on our pledge to use every tool in the government's arsenal, in every corner of the globe, to protect American communities," said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. "The Justice Department will not rest or relent in investigating and prosecuting every link of the fentanyl supply chain, including the PRC companies and executives who produce and export vast quantities of the precursor chemicals the drug cartels need to peddle their poison. There can be no safe haven."

"Today's announcement is a considerable step forward in our unrelenting fight against fentanyl, targeting the threat where it starts," said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. "These companies and individuals are alleged to have knowingly supplied drug traffickers, in the United States and Mexico, with the ingredients and scientific know-how needed to make fentanyl – a drug that continues to devastate families and communities across the United States, killing Americans from all walks of life. Targeting entire criminal drug networks, from the source of supply to the last mile of distribution, is critical to saving American lives. DEA will not stop until this crisis ends."

"Today's charges are further proof of the unceasing, wide-ranging efforts the New York City Police Department will undergo to rid our city of illegal drugs," stated NYPD Commissioner Sewell. "No matter where or how this poison is manufactured and distributed, we are united with our local, state, federal, and international law-enforcement partners in the fight against drug traffickers. To that end, I thank and commend the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York State Police, and everyone else involved in this case for their exceptional work."

New York State Police Acting Superintendent Nigrelli stated, "The prosecution of these criminals reinforces that we will continue to be vigilant in stopping the flow of dangerous, illegal drugs into our country. The manufacturing and distribution of these highly addictive drugs perpetuates a cycle of substance abuse which poses a significant threat to safety and quality of life within our communities. Drug trafficking organizations of any kind will not be tolerated. I thank the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York and our law enforcement partners for their continuing commitment to identify, arrest and prosecute anyone who attempts to infiltrate these dangerous drugs into our nation."

The misuse of fentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, has resulted in one of the deadliest drug threats the United States has ever faced. It is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

As alleged in the indictments, the defendant companies supplied precursor chemicals to the United States and Mexico, among other places, knowing they would be used to manufacture fentanyl. The defendant companies openly advertised their products all over the world, including to the United States and Mexico, on social media platforms. They also sent their chemical products to the United States and Mexico by boat and by 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, falsifying customs forms, and making false declarations at border crossings. The chemicals distributed by the defendants included all the materials necessary to manufacture fentanyl via the most common pathways.

The defendant companies attempted to obfuscate their distribution of fentanyl precursors by adding "masking" molecules, which slightly alter the chemical signature of the underlying precursor chemicals. By changing the chemical signature, an altered substance could evade testing protocols and relevant regulations by appearing to be a new substance. Such masking molecules are easily removed, thus enabling the purchaser to return the substance to its original form as a fentanyl precursor. The defendant companies not only produced and distributed masked precursors, but also provided instructions about how to remove the masking molecules upon receipt, thus helping their customers to more effectively obtain banned precursors and produce fentanyl. The defendants also gave instructions on how to improve fentanyl yield and advice on which chemicals to buy to replace banned precursor products.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations, including but not limited to the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, have increasingly availed themselves of the fentanyl precursors and masked fentanyl precursors developed and distributed by the defendant companies and companies like them. The chemicals provided by the defendant companies have enabled such 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 charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The government's case is being handled by the Office's International Narcotics and Money Laundering section. Assistant United States Attorneys Francisco Navarro, Erik Paulsen, Chand Edwards-Balfour, Adam Amir and Saritha Komatireddy are in charge of the prosecution with assistance from EDNY Special Agent George Dietz and Paralegal Specialist Bridget Donovan. The joint investigation was conducted by the IRS-CI New York, DEA New York, DEA Mexico, DEA Diversion Control Division, DEA Special Testing and Research Laboratory, United States Customs and Border Protection New York field office, and United States Postal Inspection Services of New York. The Justice Department's Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.