FARGO — Federal agents are offering $5 million to anyone who can provide information that will lead to the arrest of a Chinese national believed to be the leader of an international fentanyl trafficking ring that reached North Dakota.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced Monday, Aug. 30, it is seeking information on Jian Zhang, who faced five federal charges in North Dakota. The indictment is connected to Operation Denial, an investigation into drug trafficking that brought fentanyl from China to several U.S. states, according to federal prosecutors.
The international investigation started in North Dakota after 18-year-old Bailey Henke of Grand Forks died of a fentanyl overdose in January 2015. More than 30 defendants, including two alleged trafficking leaders accused of operating the ring from a Canadian prison, have been indicted in court. In July, Steven Barros Pinto, 40, of Rhode Island was found guilty of creating and shipping thousands of fentanyl pills across the U.S.
Many of the U.S. residents involved in the trafficking ring have been sentenced to federal prison.
“This investigation is an outstanding example of the commitment that DEA has to working with our domestic and international law enforcement partners to dismantle these drug trafficking organizations throughout the world,” said La Verne Hibbert, an acting DEA special agent in charge from Miami. “We hope that this reward will encourage those with valuable information to contact DEA to bring Mr. Zhang to justice.”
Zhang, also known as Hong Kong Zaron, was indicted in 2017 along with eight others believed to be connected to the drug trafficking ring. Federal prosecutors alleged he is the kingpin in the operation that operated at least four labs in China that manufactured fentanyl.
Since 2013, his organization is alleged to have sent thousands of fentanyl orders and other drugs to the U.S., the DEA said. Zhang is wanted in connection to the overdose deaths of four Americans, including Henke, and the serious bodily injuries to five others in the U.S., according to the release.
Zhang has been sanctioned as a significant narcotics trafficker under the Kingpin Act by the U.S., the first time an alleged fentanyl trafficker has received the designation, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters during a 2018 visit in Fargo to announce the unsealing of two indictments in the case.
Federal prosecutors don't know where Zhang is, a U.S. Attorney spokesperson from North Dakota said. The $5 million reward has been offered to seek information to determine Zhang's location.
To submit tips about Zhang's location, call 504-534-5134. Tips also can be sent via text, WhatsApp or email at ZhangJianTips@dea.gov.