Jian Zhang, a known drug trafficker, is wanted for his connection to the transnational criminal Zhang Drug Trafficking Organization. In an effort to gather intel on the fugitive, the U.S. Department of State is offering a $5 million reward for information that leads to his arrest and conviction.

The Department of Justice made the announcement in a press release Tuesday. Officials are offering a massive reward to anybody who helps authorities capture the Chinese national. Jian Zhang is a key leader in a massive drug trafficking organization and has assisted with the importing and distribution of “controlled substances” such as Fentanyl.

He is one of 30 people currently accused of trafficking large amounts of deadly opioids into the United States. According to the press release, “Zhang’s criminal organization imported and distributed controlled substances and their analogues into the United States that led to the overdose deaths of four Americans… and serious bodily injuries to five other Americans.”

The Justice Department is offering up to a $5 million reward for varying degrees of information, such as the suspect’s current location. Jian Zhang, who is also known as “Hong Kong Zaron,” acted as the principal leader in his organization from 2013 to 2016. He was officially charged in North Dakota in September 2017, the news release stated.

An extensive investigation led to charges including “drug trafficking, trafficking of illicit drugs which led to death and/or serious bodily injury of Americans, violations of the Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute, and international money laundering,” according to the Department of Justice. The $5 million reward is being offered under the Department of State’s Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program, the news release said.

The news release confirmed that “more than 75 transnational criminals and major narcotics traffickers have been brought to justice under the [program] since 1986. The Department has paid more than $135 million in rewards to date.”

According to reports, the investigation began in 2015 when an 18-year-old girl was found dead in her North Dakota apartment building. The investigation, named “Operation Denial,” revealed that Bailey Henke died from fentanyl supplied by Jian Zhang and his criminal organization. The supplies were distributed throughout North Carolina, New Jersey, and Oregon.

So far, the investigation has led to the conviction of several U.S. nationals with sentences ranging from 20 years to life in prison. One man, Columbian national Daniel Vivas Ceron, is accused of having a major role in the drug ring. Reports claimed that he sold fentanyl while in a medium-security Quebec prison. He pleaded guilty in 2019 and faces life in prison.

Who is Jian Zhang? U.S. Department of State raised reward to $5 million for info resulting in his arrest and/or conviction. Fentanyl drug trafficker on the run.
Who is Jian Zhang? U.S. Department of State raised the reward to $5 million for info resulting in his arrest and/or conviction. Fentanyl drug trafficker on the run. Photo Credit: Badon Hill Studio / Shutterstock.com

As part of the Department of Justice’s announcement, those with information that can lead to the arrest of Zhang Jian are asked to contact the DEA via call or text. The number provided is 1-504-534-5134. Informants can also email ZhangJianTips@dea.gov. Those outside the United States are asked to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Identities of all informants are kept confidential, the Department of Justice confirmed. It was reported that government officials and employees are not eligible for the $5 million reward.

According to the DEA, Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid “80-100 times stronger than morphine.” While pharmaceutical fentanyl is used by cancer patients for pain management, street drugs are often abused. It is often added to heroin “to increase its potency, or be disguised as highly potent heroin,” the DEA reported.

Like other opioids, Fentanyl can produce a variety of dangerous effects such as “relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and respiratory depressing,” according to the DEA.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that deaths involving synthetic opioids have increased by 15 percent from 2018 to 2019 and accounted for 73 percent of all opioid-related deaths in 2019. The CDC claimed that most of those deaths were caused by fentanyl overdose.