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From China to Mexico, US: How fentanyl is trafficked

(NewsNation) — The majority of illicit fentanyl in North Texas can be traced back to the Sinaloa Cartel and perhaps China, according to a Dallas Morning News report that broke down the drug’s journey from Chinese factories to Texas residents.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid as many as 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Illicitly manufactured fentanyl can be used to lace other pills without users’ knowledge and was responsible for more than 100,000 fatal overdoses in 2021, according to the CDC.

Before it’s pressed and distributed, however, much illicit fentanyl begins in Chinese chemical factories, the Dallas Morning News learned through court filings.

The Texas newspaper cited an incident in May 2020, when Mexican authorities seized about 375 pounds a of fentanyl chemical precursor, which investigators traced back to Shanghai, China.

The chemical was packaged in bags and disguised within shipments of powdered soap, according to the newspaper.

Federal agents in Texas also seized assets in the form of Bitcoin from a Chinese company accused of selling fentanyl chemicals, which Mexican cartels use to make fentanyl pills.

The fentanyl is loaded onto a plane or ship and sent to the U.S. and Mexico, often disguised as food. From there, the methods of smuggling drugs into the U.S. from Mexico are innovative and ever-changing.

Late last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers made a historic fentanyl and methamphetamine bust at Andrade Port of Entry in California. The stop yielded more than 54 pounds of fentanyl and more than 32 pounds of meth found hidden in the fuel tank of a vehicle driven by a 37-year-old U.S. citizen.

In 2016, more than a ton of marijuana was found hidden inside a shipment of fake carrots. Then in 2020, agents found $61 million worth of pot and methamphetamine inside crates of produce.

In Mexico, two groups — the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation Cartel — are currently competing for market control, The Dallas Morning News reported, citing federal officials.

“We know where the ingredients are coming from — China,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told NewsNation earlier this month. “We know that and we know where the processing is being done. We know exactly the source and the processing and the distribution.”

There are barriers to acting on that information, however.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the U.S. attorney in Dallas also indicted three top executives from a chemical manufacturing company, but efforts were halted since the accused live in China, which doesn’t have an extradition agreement with the U.S.

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