Four alleged cartel members were charged in connection with an international money laundering operation that involved sending funds to China to produce fentanyl.
The four New Jersey men, William Panzera, 49, Thomas Padovano, 48, Bartholomew Padovano, 71, and Sean Tighe, 46, were indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of New Jersey Wednesday, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The group allegedly sent digital currency to China in order to buy fentanyl analogues and what are known as “bath salts” to eventually be sold in the U.S., according to the DOJ. Funds were sent through a shell company Panzera allegedly created.
Law enforcement seized roughly 68 kilograms of 4-Fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl fentanyl, a fentanyl analogue, some of which was hidden in Newark, according to the DOJ. Two to three kilograms of narcotics were concealed and sent by mail to the group.
The drugs were pressed into counterfeit pharmaceutical pills in the U.S., according to the DOJ.
All of the accused were charged with drug trafficking conspiracy and international promotional money laundering conspiracy, and Thomas Padovano and Bart Padovano were also charged with domestic concealment money laundering conspiracy, according to the DOJ.
The drug charges have mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years and maximum sentences of life imprisonment, while the money laundering counts have potential maximum 20 year sentences, according to the DOJ.
China is one of the main sources of fentanyl-related substances, much of which is sent through international mail, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Fentanyl from Mexico and China fueled the over 108,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The DOJ declined to comment.
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