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Chemist gets federal prison time for acting as middlemen for Chinese fentanyl shipments

A table full of fentanyl and other designer drugs seized by CBP sit on display at the International Mail Facility in Chicago, Illinois, November 28, 2017, as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is given a tour of CBP operations. (Kris Grogan/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
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A federal judge sentenced a Massachusetts chemist to six years in prison for acting as the middleman for shipments of synthetic opioids like fentanyl to the U.S. from China.

Bin Wang, a once respectable businessman, “made a deal with the devil” when he started accepting shipments of illegal drugs in exchange for quick cash, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Cronin said.

Wang attended Monday’s hearing shackled and in an orange jail jumpsuit. He apologized for his actions before U.S. District Judge John Adams imposed the 71-month sentence. Defense attorney Mark DeVan said his client lived a law-abiding life other than the actions for which he was prosecuted.

Wang, 43, was part of an operation where people ordered drugs on a series of foreign websites run by Fujing Zheng and his father Guanghua Zheng, officials said. The drugs were shipped to Wang, who worked in the Boston suburbs. Wang and his employees then shipped packages to addresses within the U.S.

The drugs from the Zheng operation were linked to two overdose deaths related to a fentanyl analogue in Akron. Wang, a Canadian citizen and native of China who came to the U.S. in 2010, was arrested in 2017 before boarding a plane to Toronto. He maintains he was not trying to flee the country.

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Wang pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy, distribution of synthetic drugs and use of a communication facility for drug dealing and several other charges. He agreed to forfeit more than $69,000 and will allow the destruction of lab equipment and items that Drug Enforcement Administration agents found at his home and his warehouse in the Boston suburb of Woburn.

The judge also ordered Wang removed from the U.S., though DeVan said his client intended to return to Canada upon his release from prison.

Local and federal investigators pursued the Zhengs’ operation after prosecutors charged Akron couple Leroy Steele and Sabrina Robinson in the death of Thomas Rauh, who died from a drug overdose, according to a story published in August 2017 by cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.

Steele, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence, bought the fentanyl he sold Rauh from China and later showed authorities how he bought the drugs online, according to federal officials. From there, authorities found Fujing Zheng, also known as Gordon Jin, who communicated online with undercover federal investigators inquiring about buying synthetic drugs, and Wang, officials said.

Ryan Sumlin, another Akron drug dealer, also sold some of the drugs Steele got from China to Carrie Dobbins. She overdosed and died in March 2015. A jury found Sumlin guilty of federal charges in April and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Cronin said that while Wang’s businesses, which included Wonda Science and Cambridge Chemicals, made hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, it all went back into the companies. Wang’s take-home pay was about $36,000 annually, not enough to live in the expensive Boston suburbs, Cronin said.

Wang’s sentencing memo says that he learned his employees in China were sending illegal substances to the U.S., and then told his employees how to package the shipments to prevent Chinese customs officials from detecting them. They were packaged with other “legitimate chemicals” and shipped to his warehouse in Massachusetts, the memo says.

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While Wang played a lesser role in the drug operation, it was still significant and led to “incredible amounts of human suffering,” Cronin said.

DeVan said his client wants to re-enter the biomedical field upon his return to Canada.

A grand jury in Ohio issued charges against the Zhengs on Aug. 17, 11 days after Wang pleaded guilty. The 43-count indictment charges them with manufacturing and shipping fentanyl analogues and 250 other drugs to 25 countries and 37 U.S. states.

In addition to Wang, the Zhengs had people who worked with them in several countries, federal officials said.

The Zhengs are believed to still be in China. It is unclear whether they will ever face prosecution in the U.S.

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© 2018 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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