Indian Businessman Sentenced for Drug Importation, Smuggling, and International Money Laundering Offenses
PITTSBURGH, PA - A citizen of India was sentenced in federal court for one count of conspiracy to import Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances, one count of conspiracy to smuggle misbranded drugs, and one count of international money laundering conspiracy, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
On July 7, 2020, Chief United States District Judge Mark R. Hornak sentenced Jeetendra Harish Belani, a/k/a Jeetu, 37, of Nagpur, India, 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 $100,000.
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—www.leehpl.com. Between 2015 and 2019, Belani admitted that he and his co-conspirators, through LeeHPL Ventures, imported into the United States various drugs available only by 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—www.etizy.com. 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 United States Customs and Border Protection officials, Belani admitted that he and his co-conspirators used false customs declarations that mischaracterized 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 United States customs authorities. Likewise, Belani admitted that he caused co-conspirators to initiate payments totaling 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.
Belani was extradited to the United States following his arrest in the Czech Republic.
Assistant United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan prosecuted this case on behalf of the government. The United States Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigations and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance during the investigation of this matter.