A Mumbai resident identified by prosecutors as Jeetendra Harish Belani was indicted last week by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh on charges of violating the federal narcotics, smuggling, and money laundering laws, according to the federal prosecutor in Pennsylvania.
U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady announced June 27 that an eight-count Indictment, returned on June 26 named Belani, aka Jeetu, 36, of Mumbai, as the sole defendant in the case.
The most serious offenses with which Belani is charged, carry a maximum sentence of not more than twenty years in prison, a fine of not more than $1,000,000, or both.
Belani was charged with conspiracy to import Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substances, conspiracy to smuggle drugs into the United States, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and various substantive counts of drug importation, smuggling, and money laundering.
According to the indictment, Belani operated a drug-distribution entity based in India called LeeHPL Ventures. Between 2015 and 2019, Belani and his co-conspirators, through LeeHPL Ventures, allegedly smuggled into the United States various drugs available only by prescription in the U.S.
The drugs included Tapentadol, a Schedule II controlled substance, as well as Tramadol, Carisoprodol, and Modafinil, all Schedule IV controlled substances. The Indictment also alleged that between 2015 and mid-2017, Belani conspired with William Kulakevich and Julia Fees to unlawfully smuggle a drug known as Etizolam into the U.S. for re-sale by Kulakevich via a website they operated.
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 U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Belani and his co-conspirators also allegedly used false customs declarations that mischaracterized and undervalued the contents of packages sent to the U.S. by LeeHPL Ventures,” the prosecutor said.
In addition, according to the indictment, Belani caused drug shipments to be broken into smaller quantities and shipped to multiple addresses to help ensure delivery and avoid interception by the customs .
Belani also caused co-conspirators to initiate payments totaling tens of thousands of dollars from accounts in the U.S. to accounts controlled by Belani in India or other locations outside the U.S., all as a means to promote Belani’s continued efforts to smuggle drugs into the United States.
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.