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Last Defendant Sentenced to International Ephedrine Smuggling Conspiracy

Over $6,000,000 in Assets Forfeited - One of the largest ever in Oregon

September 05, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - Fabian Samuel, 34, of Bangalore, India, was sentenced by District Judge Anna J. Brown today to 26 months in prison following his plea of guilty to a charge of conspiracy to import and distribute ephedrine. As part of his plea agreement, Samuel tendered a cashier's check of $2,000,000 to be forfeited to the government as part of the sentence.

Samuel was the Executive Director and son of the founder of an India-based company named Indfrag, Ltd., which produced extract products, some containing ephedrine, the main precursor chemical needed to make the controlled substance methamphetamine. Samuel and five other conspirators, all previously sentenced in 2011, smuggled the ephedrine products into the U.S. mislabeled as "green tea extract" and other false names. The ephedrine was further smuggled into Mexico where it was to be made into methamphetamine by Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Federal officials conceded that, unlike with the other five conspirators, they could not prove that Samuel knew that methamphetamine was the ultimate goal of the smuggling, only that he knew that the product was being illegally smuggled into the U.S. Between 2007 and 2009, this group illegally imported 50 shipments of ephedrine-based products in 850 barrels for an estimated total of 7,800 kilograms. Federal officials conservatively estimated that this ephedrine could produce $20,000,000 worth of methamphetamine.

Samuel, a citizen of India, was arrested in Geneva, Switzerland, in May of 2011, and was extradited to the United States in December of 2011 after losing his extradition litigation. He was a computer science and engineering graduate of an Indian technology college, and obtained a Master of Science degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. He had no prior criminal record.

The other five conspirators, all arrested in Las Vegas in November of 2009, and their respective sentences were: Antonio Gonzalez, 58, a U.S. Customs broker from Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego (96 months in prison); Verlyn Craig Payton, 48, of Forest Grove (48 months in prison); Manoj Kovummal, 43, of Bangalore, India (48 months in prison); Subhash Naithani, 41, of New Delhi, India (54 months in prison); and Sachin Sharma, 36, of Mumbai, India (54 months in prison). Search and seizure warrants were executed in Nevada, Oregon, and the San Diego area allowing agents to seize over $4,000,000 in assets for forfeiture, mostly from Gonzalez, including $2,300,000 in bank and investment accounts, a Cessna airplane, two real properties, four expensive automobiles including a Tesla Electric Roadster worth $140,000, and some palladium ingots. Combined with Samuel's cashier's check for $2,000,000, the total assets forfeited to the government in this investigation were worth over $6,000,000.

"This is the largest precursor chemical conspiracy ever prosecuted in Oregon, and one of the largest in the nation. Stopping the flow of such enormous quantities of ephedrine into Mexico goes a long way toward stemming the tide of methamphetamine's return to the streets of the United States. With over $6,000,000 in assets forfeited, this is also one of the largest forfeitures, if not the largest, we have ever had in this state. Taking the profit out of drug trafficking is one of our most important goals," said United States Attorney S. Amanda Marshall.

This case was an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF is a federally-funded program established in 1982 whose mission is to support comprehensive, multi-agency investigations designed to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. This case was also an investigation under the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, sponsored by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). HIDTA is a counterdrug grant program that provides funding, coordination, and intelligence resources to multi-agency drug enforcement task forces seeking to disrupt or dismantle local, multi-state, and international drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Oregon HIDTA Interdiction Team, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John F. Deits, Kathleen Bickers, and Leslie Westphal.

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