California/Nagpur: An Indian businessman from Nagpur, who was earlier extradited from Czech Republic, has been sentenced for smuggling drugs and money laundering, a US attorney has said.
A federal district court in Pittsburg, California, on July 7 sentenced Jeetendra Harish Belani, alias Jeetu, 37, of Nagpur, to time served followed by three years of supervised release. Belani has been detained for approximately 13 months following his arrest in the Czech Republic on June 3, 2019.
Belani, who will be removed to India following his release from federal custody, was also ordered to forfeit USD 100,000, US Attorney Scott W Brady said on Thursday. Belani was extradited to the United States following his arrest in the Czech Republic.
During his plea hearing on December 9, 2019, Belani admitted that he operated a drug-distribution entity based in India called LeeHPL Ventures, as well as an associated website leehpl.com.
Between 2015 and 2019, Belani admitted that he and his co-conspirators, through LeeHPL Ventures, imported into the US various drugs available only through prescription, including tapentadol, a Schedule II controlled substance, as well as tramadol, carisoprodol, and modafinil, all Schedule IV controlled substances.
In addition, Belani admitted that between 2015 and mid-2017 he worked with two co-conspirators in the United States William Kulakevich and Julia Fees to unlawfully smuggle a drug known as etizolam into the United States so that Kulakevich and Fees could resell it via a website they operated, http://www.etizy.com, the court papers said.
Etizolam is part of a class of drugs similar to benzodiazepines, which are often used to treat insomnia and anxiety and carry a potential for abuse and overdose. To evade detection by US Customs and Border Protection officials, Belani admitted that he and his co-conspirators used false customs declarations that mischaracterised and undervalued the contents of packages sent to the United States by LeeHPL Ventures.
In addition, Belani caused drug shipments to be broken into smaller quantities and shipped to multiple addresses to help ensure delivery and avoid interception by the United States customs authorities.
Likewise, Belani admitted that he caused co-conspirators to initiate payments totalling tens of thousands of dollars from accounts in the United States to accounts he controlled in India or in other locations outside the United States, all as a means to promote his continued efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States, the Department of Justice said.