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The Ongoing Fentanyl Menace: China’s Precursors and a Deadly Additive

Ten days ago, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped a bombshell, announcing the indictment of eight Chinese chemical companies and twelve individuals.

The charge? Continuing to ship the raw materials, known as precursors, used in the creation of fentanyl. Fentanyl remains a devastating issue in the United States, and despite growing international concern, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has yet to put a halt to these deadly shipments.

Alarming Revelations: The recent announcement unearthed several deeply unsettling issues. Not only are these Chinese chemical companies persisting in sending precursor chemicals for fentanyl production, but they’ve taken a sinister turn.

They’re now shipping an additive that intensifies the fentanyl high. What sets this additive apart is its lethal nature – it doesn’t respond to ‘Narcan,’ the drug used to revive fentanyl users on the brink of death. In short, this additive practically guarantees a user’s fatality.

The additive in question is ‘xylazine,’ or by its street alias, “tranq.” Its primary purpose? To sedate horses and cattle. But as the director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Anne Milgram, starkly points out, “It has no legitimate use in humans.”

And as U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, “The international dimension to the deadly scourge of fentanyl requires the all-of-government response that we are delivering today,”

A Link to IP Protection: Our investigations blog delves into the world of intellectual property protection, but it’s crucial for all IP professionals to understand the intricate web law enforcement weaves to trace fentanyl manufacturing back to China.

The same tactics used by Chinese fentanyl producers to market and ship their deadly products are eerily similar to those employed by counterfeit merchandise networks. The connection lies in the “manner and means.”

And here’s where it gets even more complex: just like many Chinese products that don’t make a direct journey to their destination country, these illicit fentanyl precursor chemicals have a pitstop, often through an intermediate nation. In the case of fentanyl production, these precursors take a detour through drug labs in Mexico before finding their way into the United States.

In essence, it’s a chapter from the Criminal-Chinese playbook that leaves a trail of devastation in its wake. The same methods of clandestine operations, obscure routes, and misdirection are deployed whether it’s deadly fentanyl or counterfeit goods.

Here are some of the highlights:

Sample of fentanyl precursor chemicals being advertised on social media as detailed in a U.S. Treasury Department press release.

Sample conversation between one undercover DEA agent and a Chinese chemical company extracted from one of the indictments:

UC-1: Ok. What is price of 79099? How do you
accept payment? We are interested in large
quantities but would like to verify quality.
HEBEI SHENGHAO: 79,099 $240 per kilogram
We accept bitcoin, and money transfers
Guarantee is the best quality
UC-1: Ok. Western union o[r] money gram are ok?
Do you have big quantities of 79099
available? If we like it are you able to provide
discount on larger quantity of the 79099?
Thank you for the information
HEBEI SHENGHAO: I’m sure we’ll give you a discount in case of
high demand
Will it be sent to the United States or
Mexico? In the case of Mexico, the minimum
order quantity is 25kg
If sent to the United States, there is no
quantity limit
UC-1: Ok. We would like 1 kg of 79099-07-3 and 1
kg sample of 288573-56-8. We can receive it
at an address in the USA.
If quality is good my clients will place large

Sample of deceptive delivery of fentanyl precursors to the U.S. through the United States Postal Service.

Conclusion: The fentanyl crisis, exacerbated by the introduction of a lethal additive, remains a critical issue. But it’s not just a public health crisis; it’s a stark example of how the illegal, underground operations have become deeply interconnected and entangled, much like the intricate world of counterfeit merchandise. Addressing these problems demands cooperation and innovative strategies on both the national and international fronts, for it is lives, and in the case of fentanyl, countless lives are at stake.

Additional Reading:

NY Times – October 5, 2023 – Some Key Facts About Fentanyl

IP Probe Blog – July 7, 2023 – Chinese Fentanyl and the U.S. Overdose Epidemic-UPDATE

IP Probe Blog – November 14, 2019 – Chinese Fentanyl and the U.S. Overdose Epidemic

Disclaimer:IPProbe.Global is dedicated to serving the professional IP community. We have taken diligent measures to verify the information presented in this blog; however, we do not offer any explicit or implied guarantees or warranties concerning the content available on IPProbe.Global. We hereby relinquish any liability and accountability for the accuracy or credibility of statements made by our contributors and any potential disputes that may emerge as a result.It is the readers’ sole responsibility to independently investigate and authenticate the qualifications of the individuals mentioned herein, as well as to ascertain the accuracy and validity of the information they provide. Please be aware that this blog serves as a source of general information only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional legal or other expert guidance.

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Ron Alvarez is an IP investigations and protection consultant and writer in New York City. He is a former NYPD lieutenant where he investigated robbery, narcotics, internal affairs, and fine art theft cases. Ron has since coordinated the private investigation of international fraud and money laundering cases, as well as IP-related investigations and research involving the four pillars of IP: copyright, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets. Ron is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and earned a B.A. in Government and Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. He has written a number of articles for various investigative publications, as well as published "The World of Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Investigations" in November 2021.

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