Three foreign nationals were sentenced in the District of North Dakota for their roles in an international fentanyl distribution conspiracy.

Daniel Vivas Ceron, 43, of Colombia, was sentenced today to 27 years in prison. According to court documents, Ceron – while in prison in Quebec, Canada – was the leader and organizer of an international criminal enterprise that distributed large amounts of fentanyl. Using a contraband cell phone from inside the prison, Ceron and co-conspirator Jason Joey Berry, 40, of Montreal, Canada, arranged shipments of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from China to Canada and the United States as part of the criminal enterprise. The distribution of these substances in the United States led to 15 overdoses, four of which were fatal, and 11 of which caused serious bodily injury.  

On July 24, Berry was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Berry coordinated the acquisition of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from China, the receipt the drugs in Canada, and the further distribution of fentanyl products to the United States. 

On July 17, co-conspirator Xuan Cahn Nguyen, aka Jackie, aka Jackie Chan, 43, of Point-Aux-Tremble, Quebec, Canada, was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Nguyen assisted Berry and Ceron in acquiring fentanyl, distributing the drugs to the United States, and collecting the narcotics proceeds.

“The defendants whose sentences we are announcing today purchased fentanyl from global suppliers in China and elsewhere and conspired to sell it here in the United States,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “These cases reflect the Justice Department’s commitment to going after every link in this global supply chain and to holding accountable those who profit from this deadly drug at the expense of families in North Dakota and across the country.”

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“The sentences announced in these cases are the result of partnerships across the U.S. government and with allies around the world to disrupt and dismantle the global supply-and-delivery chain flooding fentanyl across borders,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Today’s sentences also represent hard-won justice for the victims of this international trafficking enterprise, their loved ones, and their communities. The Department of Justice is grateful to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for their invaluable assistance in this case. We must continue to work hand-in-hand with our partners in Canada and Mexico to fight the deadly threat posed by fentanyl in North America.”

“These defendants are responsible for fentanyl poisoning deaths in North Dakota and several other states, and today’s strong sentence ensures accountability for those crimes,” said U.S. Attorney Mac Schneider for the District of North Dakota. “This result is a credit to the tireless work and seamless cooperation exhibited by our office’s prosecution team and their law enforcement partners in North Dakota, across the country, and in Canada.”

“Disrupting large drug trafficking networks, like the Ceron Network, is vitally important to our ongoing effort to combat the fentanyl crisis in America and save innocent lives,” said U.S. Attorney Natalie Wight for the District of Oregon. “Networks like these span jurisdictions and stopping them requires robust coordination among many domestic and international partners.”

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) plays a pivotal role in disrupting the flow of illicit narcotics at every point in the drug supply chain – we will continue to work collaboratively and aggressively with our partners wherever transnational criminal organizations source and manufacture these deadly substances that earn substantial profit by selling this poison across the communities we seek to protect,” said Executive Associate Director Katrina W. Berger of HSI. “HSI continues to advance its broad strategy to combat illicit opioids and today’s sentencings are one more testament to that commitment.”

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Operation Denial has led to 31 defendants charged in the District of North Dakota and three defendants charged in the District of Oregon. The investigation has resulted in nearly $1 million in cash and property forfeited from members of the organization. In addition to Ceron, Berry, and Nguyen, defendants sentenced or convicted in this case include[1]:

District of North Dakota

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  • Jameson Robert Sele, 20, of Grand Forks, North Dakota, was sentenced on July 27, 2015, to three years in prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
  • Ryan Jon Jensen, 20, of Grand Forks, was sentenced on Feb. 2, 2016, to 20 years federal prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death; two counts of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death; distribution of a controlled substance resulting in serious bodily injury; and money laundering conspiracy.
  • David Todd Noye Jr., 18, of Grand Forks, was sentenced on Jan. 25, 2016, to three years and three months in prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
  • Joshua Tyler Fulp, 20, of Grand Forks, was sentenced on Jan. 26, 2016, to 12 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death.
  • Kain Daniel Schwandt, 19, of Grand Forks, was sentenced on Jan. 25, 2016, to three and a half years in prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
  • Brandon Corde Hubbard, 40, of Portland, Oregon, was sentenced on Sept. 14, 2021, to 22 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death; distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death; and money laundering conspiracy.
  • Braden James Foley, 28, of Olympia, Washington, was sentenced on Nov. 21, 2016, to two and a half years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.
  • Amanda Schneider, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, was sentenced on Jan. 17, 2019, to one year and three months in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.
  • Danny Gamboa, 21, of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was sentenced on Feb. 27, 2019, to two years and one month in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.
  • Keveen Nobre, 29, of Providence, Rhode Island, was sentenced on April 17, 2019, to two and a half years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.
  • Robinson Gomez, 35, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was sentenced on April 17, 2019, to 15 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.
  • David Campbell, 58, of Plantation, Florida, was sentenced on April 17, 2019, to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.
  • Elizabeth Ton, 27, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, was sentenced on March 8, 2019, to three years and five months in prison for money laundering conspiracy.
  • Louis Bell, 31, of Port St. Lucie, was sentenced on April 18, 2019, to 17 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.
  • Anthony Gomes, 34, of Woonsocket, was sentenced on July 30, 2021, to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, distribution of a controlled substance resulting in serious bodily injury and death, and money laundering conspiracy.
  • Jose Pinto, 64, of Pawtucket, was sentenced on Jan. 20, 2022, to time served and two years of supervised release for tampering with evidence.
  • Eugenia Pinto, 64, of Pawtucket, entered into a pre-trial diversion agreement on Nov. 18, 2021, for a term of one and a half years after admission to obstruction of justice and evidence tampering.
  • Steven Pinto, 40, of Pawtucket, was sentenced on Oct. 14, 2021, to 33 years in prison for continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute and import controlled substances, and obstruction of justice.
  • Vannek Um, 45, of Montreal, pleaded guilty on March 14 to money laundering conspiracy. Vannek Um is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 8.
  • Marie Um, 42, of Montreal, was convicted in April of conspiracy to distribute and import controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death and money laundering conspiracy. Marie Um is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 5.
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District of Oregon

  • Channing Lacey, 30, of Portland, was sentenced on Aug. 28, 2017, to 11 years and three months in prison for one count of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in serious bodily injury to three individuals and one count of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death.
  • Carissa Marie Laprall, 25, of Portland, was sentenced on Jan. 30, 2020, to time served with five years of supervised release for three counts of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in serious bodily injury.
  • Steven Fairbanks Locke, 41, of Portland, was sentenced on Sept. 4, 2017, to time served and a term of supervised release for use of a communication facility to facilitate a drug offense.

On Aug. 31, 2021, the U.S. Department of State offered a reward of up to $5 million

for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of People’s Republic of China (PRC) national Jian Zhang, a fugitive in this transnational investigation. Additional fugitives from China include Na Chu, 37, Pulandian City, Liaoning Province, China; Yeyou Chu, 36, Pulandian City, Liaoning Province, China; Cuiying Liu, 62, Dezhou City, Shangdong Province, China; and Keping Zhang, 62, Dezhou City, Shangdong Province, China.

Homeland Security Investigations; North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; IRS-Criminal Investigation’s St. Louis Field Office; Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force; Royal Canadian Mounted Police; Portland Oregon Police Bureau – Drugs and Vice Division, Portland HIDTA Interdiction Task Force; Oregon State Police; and the Grand Forks Police Department investigated the case.

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The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in securing foreign evidence and the extradition of four Operation Denial defendants: Nguyen, Berry, Vannek Um, and Marie Um.

Assistant Deputy Chief Kaitlin Sahni and Trial Attorney Imani Hutty of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers for the District of North Dakota, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin for the District of Oregon prosecuted the case.