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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lyons

Defendant pleads guilty in dark web narcotics case involving largest cryptocurrency seizure of $150 million in drug proceeds


Banmeet Singh

COLUMBUS, Ohio – An Indian national pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to running a dark web narcotics conspiracy that moved hundreds of kilograms and tens of thousands of pills of controlled substances throughout the United States and established a multi-million-dollar drug enterprise. According to the DEA, this case involves the largest single cryptocurrency and cash seizure in DEA history; the defendant has forfeited cryptocurrency accounts that ultimately became worth $150 million.

 

Specifically, Banmeet Singh, 40, of Haldwani, India, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

 

According to court documents, Singh created vendor marketing sites on dark web marketplaces such as Silk Road 1, Silk Road 2, Alpha Bay, Hansa and others, to sell controlled substances, including fentanyl, LSD, ecstasy, Xanax, Ketamine and Tramadol.

 

Customers ordered controlled substances from Singh using the vendor sites and by paying with cryptocurrency. Singh then personally shipped or arranged the shipment of controlled substances from Europe to the United States through U.S. 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 one in Columbus. Other distribution cells were in Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, North Dakota and Washington. 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 U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

Singh was arrested in London in April 2019 and the government secured his extradition to the United States in 2023. Singh is one of eight defendants who were members of this drug trafficking organization who have been convicted of drug trafficking charges throughout the United States.

 

“In the Singh organization’s drug orders, the members frequently used the vendor name ‘Liston’ and signed off with the signature phrase, ‘I’m still dancing.’ Today, with Banmeet Singh’s plea of guilty, the dance is over,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker.

 

“Banmeet Singh and traffickers like him think they can operate anonymously on the dark web and evade prosecution,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s guilty plea, which includes forfeiture of approximately $150 million in cryptocurrency, demonstrates that the Justice Department will hold criminals who violate U.S. law accountable no matter how they conceal their activity. Together with our international partners, we will continue to find criminals lurking in the darkness and bring their crimes to light.”

 

“Banmeet Singh is designated as a Consolidated Priority Target, which makes him one of the most significant drug trafficking threats in the world,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene. “He is responsible for shipping massive quantities of deadly drugs throughout the United States, mostly purchased on the internet and sent through the mail.  His criminal enterprise has caused untold suffering to perhaps tens of thousands of people throughout the country.  Along with our global network of law enforcement partners, the investigation into his associates will continue, wherever they operate, until the threat to our communities has been stopped.”

 

Parker, Argentieri and Greene were joined by Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson of the IRS’ Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Acting Special Agent in Charge Shawn Gibson of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Detroit Field Office, Inspector in Charge Lesley Allison of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Pittsburgh Division, Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin, Upper Arlington Police Chief Steve Farmer, Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant and officials with the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center in announcing today’s guilty plea.

 

The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Central Authority (UKCA) provided significant assistance. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and extradition of Singh from the UK.

 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Hunter of the Southern District of Ohio and Trial Attorney Emily Cohen of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section are prosecuting the case.

 

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, and gangs that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

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