Man accused of helping to run fentanyl ring from Quebec prison signs plea

A man accused of helping to run an international fentanyl trafficking operation while serving time in a Quebec prison has signed a plea agreement in the United States, court documents show.

Newly unsealed records say Daniel Vivas Ceron, a Colombian national, intends to plead guilty in North Dakota to three charges, including conspiracy to import controlled substances resulting in serious bodily injury and death.

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Vivas Ceron, who allegedly took part in the scheme from the medium-security Drummond Institution in Drummondville, Que., faces life in prison. A hearing is scheduled Friday.

Court documents say the drugs were obtained in Canada and China and distributed across the United States, where they were linked to deaths and injuries in North Dakota and Oregon.

They say Vivas Ceron and several co-conspirators bought and sold the drug through sites "specifically designed to be hidden from the public," using Canadian, American as well as virtual currencies.

More than 30 people, including five Chinese nationals, are accused in the case of dealing large amounts of the powerful opioid in the U.S. and Canada.

The investigation began in January 2015 when 18-year-old Bailey Henke was found dead inside a Grand Forks, N.D., apartment building.

Authorities have said Henke overdosed on fentanyl supplied by Brandon Hubbard, a Portland, Ore., man who obtained his drugs from Vivas Ceron. Hubbard was sentenced to life in prison.

The case drew the attention of former U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions, who came to North Dakota in April to discuss the case after charges were laid against Jian Zhang, the alleged ringleader from China.

Federal officials have sanctioned the five Chinese nationals, including Zhang, a move meant to prevent them from continuing to do business in the U.S.

Vivas Ceron signed the plea agreement last month but it was only made public Monday.

— with files from The Associated Press

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