2 area companies sold narcotics online and shipped from local warehouses, prosecutors say – Mundelein Review
Two suburban residents appeared in federal court Thursday morning on charges related to the sale of fentanyl and fentanyl precursors over the internet using unlicensed businesses.
Wei Xu, 52, who goes by the alias “Scarlett Hsu,” lives in Vernon Hills and operated a business known as 1717 CheMall Corp. from a warehouse at 222 Terrace Drive, Mundelein , according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.
A multi-jurisdictional task force led by the Drug Enforcement Administration raided 1717 CheMall Corp. late Wednesday. Employees of neighboring businesses posted photos of the activity on social media, but the U.S. attorney’s office was unable to disclose what was recovered from the warehouse.
Xu was charged with one count of knowingly distributing a controlled substance. Prosecutors said she used the company’s website to sell “fentanyl and other controlled substances” from the site’s “estore.”
Federal prosecutors say Liangfu “Larry” Huang, 53, of Northbrook, ran a business known as Ark Pharm Inc., which operated from a warehouse at 1840 Industrial Drive, Libertyville, until recently moving to 3860 N. Ventura Drive, Arlington Heights, according to the federal complaint.
Huang was taken into custody Wednesday night at O’Hare International Airport after exiting a plane that arrived from China, according to the release. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, a controlled substance. Prosecutors say he used the company to sell controlled substances, including a fentanyl precursor.
A multi-jurisdictional task force also raided Ark Pharm Inc. late Wednesday and recovered an unspecified amount of drugs, according to Joseph Fitzpatrick, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.
In the complaint, DEA agents say they successfully made multiple purchases from both companies, which are registered with the Illinois Secretary of State as “domestic corporations.” Neither have federal licenses to handle narcotics, prosecutors said.
Both companies’ websites offered “controlled substances that are commonly recreationally abused,” according to each complaint, and both used FedEx to disseminate their products. Both complaints state the purchases were sent from the suburban warehouses.
Before completing purchases, DEA agents say both companies required signatures on a disclaimer that said the available drugs were for laboratory use only.
“I believe this is a common disclaimer that is used by internet drug traffickers on the mistaken belief that the disclaimer absolves them of criminal liability for distributing controlled substances,” one agent testified in the complaints.
Submitted photo Armored cars from several local agencies, including the Joliet police department, were on scene at a Mundelein warehouse May 30, 2018. Armored cars from several local agencies, including the Joliet police department, were on scene at a Mundelein warehouse May 30, 2018. (Submitted photo) Fitzpatrick declined to comment on targeted customers until evidence from the raids could be reviewed, but he said the DEA found no indication that either company verified the agents’ fake credentials.
“These were websites available on the open internet, not on any intranet or any dark web server,” Fitzpatrick said.
Between January 2016 and February 2017, Ark Pharm Inc. made approximately 28,988 shipments and approximately 23,054 listed Huang as the shipper, according to the federal complaint.
Federal agents say they began investigating Ark Pharm Inc. because numerous packages labeled as plastic supplies were seized at the U.S. border after inspections revealed drug contents.
Surveillance of Ark Pharm Inc.’s Arlington Heights facility revealed approximately 15 to 20 employees worked at the facility, according to the complaint. Huang was listed on the account used by the business and the DEA says it determined Huang is the president of Ark Pharm Inc.
In Mundelein, Xu was the only person undercover agents ever saw entering or leaving the 1717 CheMall Corp. warehouse. When agents made phone calls and emails to buy products they spoke with someone named “Scarlett Hsu,” according to the complaint.
Local police conducted a coordinated traffic stop on Xu after she left the warehouse and officers say she provided the name Scarlett as an alias, the complaint says.
Xu is listed as an authorized person on 1717 CheMall Corp.’s bank account and was on the return label when agents received purchased drugs, according to the complaint.
Approximately 20,000 Americans died due to synthetic opioids in 2016 and many of the drugs were smuggled into the country from China, according to the release.
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