Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Nine members of a Chinese narcotic production ring have been sent to prison for smuggling the drugs into the United States, authorities said Thursday.
One was given a suspended death sentence and two were given life sentences, the court said. Six others were sentenced to between six months and 10 years. All pleaded guilty to being members of a ring that produced fentanyl, one of the most powerful opioids commercially available.
The nine were captured and tried as a result of a joint U.S.-Chinese operation that's believed to be the first of its kind in history. More than 20 people were arrested as part of the three-month investigation.
"We look forward to further cooperation to stop the flow of these deadly substances into the United States," the White House Office of Drug Control Policy said.
Beijing also said it shut down two online opioid markets and police said they found a processing plant. Police confiscated more than 26 pounds of fentanyl and 42 pounds of other compounds, they said.
Synthetic opioids accounted for nearly 28,500 U.S. overdose deaths in 2017, more than any other variety, government statistics show. Synthetic drugs like fentanyl and tramadol are designed to relieve pain but have been abused and manufactured illegally in clandestine labs for sale on illicit markets.