DEA seizes $150 million, largely in Bitcoin, in drug case tied to Ohio
The federal government has seized more than $150 million in drug funds, largely in Bitcoin, from one man from India—and although his crimes touched other countries and states, the defendant was extradited to and charged in Columbus.
Banmeet Singh, a 40-year-old man from the city of Haldwani, pleaded guilty in federal district court in downtown Columbus on Friday. Singh has been in the U.S. since 2023 following a 2019 arrest in London.
Aside from the seizure, Southern District of Ohio U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker said at a media conference Friday that Singh could be facing eight years in prison for what he pleaded guilty to, which includes conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
U.S. Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration officials have said Singh’s case is the biggest cryptocurrency seizure the DEA has executed to date.
Singh built vendor websites on the dark web to sell fentanyl, LSD, ecstasy, Xanax, Ketamine, and Tramadol, according to Parker. Customers primarily used Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency by-and-large, to pay Singh for the substances he then sent or arranged to have sent, according to court documents.
From 2012 to 2017, Singh was at the helm of eight U.S. drug distribution cells. One of those was in Columbus, which is why Parker said he pushed to prosecute Singh in his court.
“We were showing that when you impact the Southern District of Ohio, we’re going to go where we need to, to address those people,” Parker said. “That’s why we brought him here, to deal with him. We have venue here. This should be addressed here. Our citizens are equally important as anyone else."
Parker said the case shows how criminals adjust to new technology to avoid detection.
“Our dedicated men and women of law enforcement will go where the investigation leads, the dark web or other places to properly seize the ill-gotten gains.”
Federal and local agencies in central Ohio and elsewhere assisted with the case through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, or OCDETF. As of Friday afternoon, Singh’s sentencing hearing had yet to be scheduled, according to a Southern District of Ohio spokesperson.