By Harold W. Reid, The Chicago Times
May 31, 2023
WASHINGTON – The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Tuesday sanctioned 17 individuals and entities involved in the international proliferation of equipment used to produce illicit drugs.
The Treasury Department said these targets are directly or indirectly involved in the sale of pill press machines, die molds, and other equipment used to impress counterfeit trade markings of legitimate pharmaceuticals onto illicitly produced pills that are often laced with fentanyl, frequently destined for US markets.
“Treasury’s sanctions target every stage of the deadly supply chain fueling the surge in fentanyl poisonings and deaths across the country,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson. “Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl constitute a leading cause of these deaths, devastating thousands of American families each year. We remain committed to using all authorities against enablers of illicit drug production to disrupt this deadly global production and counter the threat posed by these drugs.”
Mechanical pill presses compress powdered substances into tablets of uniform size and weight. The US government regulates pill press machine importation, which also includes the regulation of size and capacity. According to the Treasury Department, the importation and use of illegal pill presses could lead to inconsistent and lethal dosages.
Even worse, illegal pills laced with fentanyl, may be blank or bear custom impressions to mimic trademarked or scheduled drugs without authorization, such as “M30” for schedule II oxycodone products or “Xanax” for schedule IV alprazolam products.
The Treasury Department designated Chinese pill press supplier Youli Technology Development Co., Ltd. along with three Youli-affiliated Chinese nationals, Guo Chunyan, Guo Yunnian, and Guo Ruiguang, all located in Huizhou, China. According to the Treasury Department, Youli allegedly shipped pill press machinery to individuals in the United States involved in the manufacture of counterfeit pills using techniques intended to evade law enforcement scrutiny. Furthermore, Youli allegedly shipped scheduled pharmaceuticals to the United States for counterfeit pill manufacturing.
The Treasury Department sanctioned China based Yason General Machinery Co., Yason Electronics Technology Co., and Yason General Machinery Co., Ltd., for their role in the supply of press equipment internationally. According to the Treasury Department, Yason allegedly sells pill press-related equipment and has worked with a Mexico-based pill equipment supplier and contact who previously provided equipment to a Sinaloa Cartel-linked individual. It is alleged that the contact used the machines to create superlabs in Mexico with the capacity to produce millions of fentanyl-laced pills on a weekly basis.
The sanctions also include Mexpacking Solutions, of Chihuahua, Mexico, which sells pill presses and other equipment and is allegedly controlled by a Sinaloa Cartel pill press supplier. It is alleged that Mexpacking has been used as cover for an individual involved with making fentanyl-laced pills and with assisting Mexico-based cartel members with pill press operations. It is further alleged that goods from Mexpacking were shipped to another pill press equipment supplier involved with coordinating shipments of pill press machines and parts to drug trafficking organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel.
Mexican nationals: Mario Ernesto Martinez Trevizo (Martinez), Cinthia Adriana Rodriguez Almeida (Rodriguez), and Ernesto Alonso Macias Trevizo (Macias) were also sanctioned by the Treasury Department in connection with the above alleged crimes.
The Treasury Department also sanctioned online business Tdpmolds, an entity established and controlled by Zhao Dongdong, a Chinese national located in Yantai, China. It is alleged that Tdpmolds offers a range of pill press machines and dies for sale, and as recently as 2020, Tdpmolds shipped to the United States several pill press die molds, including ones used to produce counterfeit schedule II oxycodone and amphetamine pill products.
As a result of Tuesday’s sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons are blocked and must be reported to the Treasury Department. Furthermore, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, individually or in the aggregate, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.