PITTSBURGH, PA – A citizen of India pleaded guilty in federal court to 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 money laundering conspiracy, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
Jeetendra Harish Belani, a/k/a Jeetu, 37, of Nagpur, India, pleaded guilty before Chief United States District Judge Mark R. Hornak.
During his plea hearing, Belani admitted that he operated a drug-distribution entity based in India called LeeHPL Ventures. Belani also maintained 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 arrested in the Czech Republic on June 3, 2019, and he was subsequently extradited to the United States to face the charges contained in an eight-count Indictment returned by a federal grand jury on June 26, 2019.
In addition to the three counts to which Belani pleaded guilty, he also accepted responsibility, pursuant to a written plea agreement, for the conduct charged in the remaining five counts of the Indictment: two additional smuggling charges, two additional drug importation charge, and one additional money laundering charge. Belani also agreed to forfeit a total of $100,000.
Belani faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $1,000,000 for the drug importation conspiracy charge; a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for the smuggling conspiracy charge; and a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $500,000 for the money laundering conspiracy charge Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
Assistant United States Attorney Eric G. Olshan is prosecuting 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.