Indian national pleads guilty in dark web drug case; $150m in crypto, cash seized

New York, Jan 29 (IANS): An Indian national has admitted to selling controlled substances on dark web marketplaces and agreed to forfeit $150 million in what is believed to be the largest seizure of cryptocurrency in the history of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Banmeet Singh, 40, who hails from Haldwani, Uttarakhand, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to commit money laundering before a Columbus court last week.

Over the course of the conspiracy, the Singh drug organisation moved hundreds of kilograms of controlled substances throughout the US States, a Department of Justice release stated.

In doing so, it established a multimillion-dollar drug enterprise that laundered millions of dollars of drug proceeds into cryptocurrency accounts, which ultimately became worth approximately $150 million.

According to court documents, he created vendor marketing sites on dark web marketplaces, such as Silk Road, Alpha Bay, Hansa, and others, to sell controlled substances, including fentanyl, LSD, ecstasy, Xanax, Ketamine, and Tramadol.

Customers ordered controlled substances from him using the vendor sites and by paying with cryptocurrency, following which Singh personally shipped or arranged the shipment of controlled substances from Europe to the United States through US mail or other shipping services.

“Banmeet Singh operated a global dark web enterprise to send fentanyl and other deadly and dangerous drugs to communities across America -- in all 50 states -- as well as Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean,” said Administrator Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The DEA had also designated Singh as a Consolidated Priority Organisation Target (CPOT), a title that has been given to other notorious drug traffickers like Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

From at least mid-2012 through July 2017, Singh controlled at least eight distribution cells within the US, including cells located in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, and Washington, among other locations.

Individuals in those distribution cells received drug shipments from overseas and then re-packaged and re-shipped the drugs to locations in all 50 states, Canada, England, Ireland, Jamaica, Scotland, and the US Virgin Islands.

“In the Singh organisation’s drug orders, the members frequently used the vendor name ‘Liston’ and signed off with the signature phrase, ‘I’m still dancing’,” said US Attorney Kenneth L Parker for the Southern District of Ohio.

“Today, with Banmeet Singh’s plea of guilty, the dance is over,” Parker added.

According to Parker, Singh has at least seven co-conspirators, of which two have been convicted in the Southern District of Ohio and the rest are facing charges in New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Maryland.

Singh, who was arrested in London in April 2019, and extradited to the US in 2023, faces an agreed-upon sentence of eight years in prison.

The Justice Department said its Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and extradition of Singh from the United Kingdom.

While a sentencing date has not yet been set, a federal district court judge will determine it after considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.




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Title: Indian national pleads guilty in dark web drug case; $150m in crypto, cash seized

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