FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A man accused in an international fentanyl trafficking operation that was uncovered after the death of a North Dakota teen is facing new charges for obstruction of justice.
Steven Pinto is one of more than 30 people, including five Chinese nationals, accused of dealing large amounts of the powerful opioid in the U.S. and Canada. Deaths from the drug have been reported in North Dakota, North Carolina, New Jersey and Oregon.
Pinto is scheduled for trial in April on numerous charges, including conspiracy to import controlled substances resulting in death, as well as money laundering and tampering with a witness. A new indictment unsealed Thursday accuses Pinto of illegally possessing a cellphone in jail and unlawfully downloading and copying evidence he tried to mail to Rhode Island.
The investigation known as “Operation Denial” began after 18-year-old Bailey Henke, of Grand Forks, died from a fatal overdose in January 2015. Daniel Vivas Ceron, a Colombian national who allegedly managed the operation from a Canadian prison, pleaded guilty last summer. He has not been sentenced.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to North Dakota in April 2019 to talk about the case after Jian Zhang, the alleged ringleader from China, was charged.