US: Indian-origin man sentenced to five years in prison for selling controlled substances on dark web marketplaces

Indian-origin man sentenced to prison
Indian-origin man sentenced to prison. Photo Courtesy: Unsplash

An Indian national was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison for selling controlled substances on dark web marketplaces and ordered to forfeit approximately USD 150 million.

“According to court documents and in statements made in court, Banmeet Singh, 40, of Haldwani, India, 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,” read a statement issued by the US Department of Justice.

Customers paid with cryptocurrency for drugs ordered from Singh using the vendor sites.

Singh then personally shipped or arranged the shipment of the drugs from Europe to the United States through US mail or other shipping services.

“From at least mid-2012 through July 2017, Singh controlled at least eight distribution cells within the United States, including cells located in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, and Washington, among other locations. Individuals in these distribution cells received drug shipments and then re-packaged and re-shipped the drugs to locations in all 50 states, Canada, England, Ireland, Jamaica, Scotland, and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” the statement said.

Over the course of the conspiracy, the Singh drug organisation moved hundreds of kilograms of controlled substances throughout the United States and established a multimillion-dollar drug enterprise that laundered millions of dollars of drug proceeds into cryptocurrency accounts, which ultimately became worth approximately USD 150 million.

Singh was arrested in April 2019 in London at the request of the United States and subsequently extradited to the United States in March 2023.

He pleaded guilty on January 26 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; US Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio; Administrator Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); Acting Special Agent in Charge Karen Wingerd of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Cincinnati Field Office; Acting Special Agent in Charge Shawn Gibson of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit; and Postal Inspector in Charge Lesley Allison of the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) made the announcement.

The DEA, IRS-CI, HSI, USPIS, and the Upper Arlington and Columbus, Ohio, Police Departments investigated the case. The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, and Central Authority provided significant assistance.

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

Trial Attorney Emily Cohen of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Assistant US Attorney Michael J. Hunter for the Southern District of Ohio prosecuted the case.