US sanctions Chinese, Mexican companies over pill making machinery

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The United States Treasury sanctioned more than a dozen people and businesses in China and Mexico Tuesday that allegedly helped provide machines used to make counterfeit prescription drugs in the latest efforts to confront trafficking of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Those targeted for sanctions were all involved in one or another with the sale of pill press machines, molds and other equipment drug cartels use to produce counterfeit pills.

“Treasury’s sanctions target every stage of the deadly supply chain fueling the surge in fentanyl poisonings and deaths across the country,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement.

Among those sanctioned were Chinese pill press supplier Youli Technology Development Co., Ltd. of Huizhou, China and three affiliated Chinese citizens. Treasury said the company had shipped pill press machinery to people in the U.S. involved in making counterfeit pills.

The U.S. sanctions also target related companies Yason General Machinery Co., Ltd. and Yason Electronics Technology Co., Ltd, both of Shenzhen, China. Yason has allegedly worked with a Mexico-based pill equipment supplier who had provided equipment to a Sinaloa cartel-linked person.

“This individual used the machines to create superlabs in Mexico with the capacity to produce millions of fentanyl-laced pills weekly,” the Treasury Department said.

Chihuahua, Mexico-based Mexpacking Solutions, which sells pill presses and other equipment is allegedly controlled by a Sinaloa cartel pill press provider, according to the Treasury. Three individuals related to the company were also sanctioned.

The sanctions imposed by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) freeze assets of the companies and people in the United States. They also prohibit U.S. citizens and businesses from any transactions with the targeted entities.

In April, U.S. prosecutors announced indictments against members of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel over its production and trafficking of fentanyl. Synthetic opioids have been blamed for tens of thousands of U.S. deaths annually in recent years.

While U.S. authorities have said that Mexico is cooperating, including in some of the sanctions against Mexican citizens announced Tuesday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has repeatedly denied that Mexico produces the powerful drug.