An accused international drug kingpin expected to appear in federal court Friday morning in Columbus and admit his alleged crimes has agreed to surrender the most cryptocurrency ever seized by U.S. law enforcement.
Banmeet Singh, 40, is expected to forfeit as part of a plea agreement accounts valued at more than $327 million as of 1 p.m. Thursday. The price of cryptocurrencies fluctuates frequently throughout each day.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a release announcing the press conference that the cryptocurrency was valued at $150 million when it was seized, believed to be the “largest single cryptocurrency financial seizure in DEA history.”
Singh, an Indian national living in the United Kingdom until his 2019 arrest, will also agree to a jointly recommended eight-year prison term when he appears before U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley on Friday morning.
Federal officials are expected to provide additional details about the seizure at a press conference following Singh’s hearing.
Singh stands accused of running an international drug ring from his UK home that distributed heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, ecstasy, LSD, ketamine, Xanax and other drugs to at least eight places in the United States, including Columbus.
U.S. District Court records show Singh and his attorneys signed the plea agreement on Jan. 5, and it was unsealed Thursday ahead of Friday morning’s hearing. As part of the plea, Singh is expected to plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances.
Federal prosecutors and Singh’s attorneys agreed to a jointly recommended sentence of 96 months, or eight years, in federal prison.
Singh is accused of using the dark web and cryptocurrency to organize and run an international drug trafficking operation with cells in Columbus, Maryland, New York, Florida, North Dakota and other places in the United States.
According to the indictment, the drug trafficking rings sold heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, LSD, Ketamine, MDMA, Xanax and other narcotics. Customers would send cryptocurrency, usually Bitcoin, to Singh from dark web accounts to vendor accounts set up by Singh, the indictment said.
Singh would then ship or arrange shipment of the drugs from Europe to the United States to a group of “reshippers” who would receive the drugs through the mail, repackage the drugs and send them to locations specified by Singh, including Jamaica, Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Scotland, England and Ireland, according to court records.
In 2017, before his indictment, Drug Enforcement Administration officials had seized 59 kilograms of ecstasy, sometimes known as MDMA or Molly, and 19 kilograms of ketamine from what is believed to be a distribution cell of Singh’s.
Singh was indicted in 2018 on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to import controlled substances and money laundering conspiracy.
The U.S. Attorney General designated Singh a priority target for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force in 2019.
Singh did not arrive in the United States until March 2023 because of his multi-year effort to fight his extradition to the Columbus area, which he eventually withdrew in early 2023.