The United States Justice Department on Tuesday unsealed eight indictments charging eight companies and 12 people over allegations they are involved in the trafficking of fentanyl into the United States. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 3 (UPI) -- The United States has targeted Chinese companies and their employees with indictments and sanctions, as the Biden administration continues its crackdown on the international trafficking of drugs, specifically fentanyl, into the country.
The measures announced Tuesday include eight Department of Justice indictments charging eight companies and 12 of their employees and Treasury designations on 14 companies and 14 people, all accused of being involved in the manufacturing and distribution of the synthetic opioid fueling the United States' drug crisis and other illicit narcotics.
"We are here today to deliver a message on behalf of the United States government: We know who is responsible for poisoning the American people with fentanyl," Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday during a press conference announcing the indictments.
President Joe Biden in his first State of the Union address identified beating the opioid and overdose epidemic, which has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, by targeting the trafficking of fentanyl, a drug that has been fueling the crisis since about 2013.
His administration has since been identifying those responsible for the drugs, from Mexican cartels who traffic the narcotics across the border to Chinese manufacturers behind the precursor chemicals.
In April, the Justice Department charged 23 people who are either members, associates or leaders of Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel. Justice Department officials said Tuesday's indictments follow charges laid in late June against China-based chemical company Hubei Amarvel Biotech and three of its employees.
"The charges announced today are another down payment on the Justice Department's pledge to every American family that has lost a loved one to fentanyl poisoning," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement.
"We will not rest until we have rid our communities of this poison."
Five of the indictments were unsealed in the Middle District of Florida, charging five Chinese corporations and eight Chinese nationals with illegally importing of fentanyl and fentanyl-related chemicals into the United States.
The three other indictments were unsealed in the the Southern District of Florida, charging three Chinese companies and four officers and employees with fentanyl trafficking, synthetic opioid trafficking, precursor chemical importation, defrauding the U.S. Postal Service and making and using counterfeit postage.
Of the more than two dozen hit with asset freezes and travel bans by the Treasury on Tuesday, 12 firms and 13 people were based in China, mostly working as part of a disruption of illicit drugs syndicate, while one person and two companies were based in Canada.
"Treasury is taking sweeping action with our colleagues in law enforcement to expose and disrupt a network responsible for manufacturing and distributing illicit drugs, including fentanyl and other substances that take thousands of American lives each year," Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.
Fentanyl is 50 times the potency of heroine and 100 times stronger than morphine, and is the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 49.
Of the more than 107,000 overdose deaths reported in the United States last year, more than two-thirds involved synthetic opioids, but predominately illicitly manufactured fentanyl, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced," Garland said.