Indian National Boosts U.S. Treasury with $340 Million in BTC
The United States seems to be increasingly turning to cryptocurrency confiscation as a means to supplement its budget. On January 26, 2024, U.S. law enforcement agencies announced a significant seizure: a hidden cache of 8,100 BTC.
The owner of the confiscated Bitcoin stash was identified as Banmeet Singh, a 40-year-old Indian citizen. He confessed to distributing drugs (MDMA) and being involved in a money laundering conspiracy. Singh headed an online group that dealt in various narcotics, including fentanyl, LSD, ecstasy, Xanax, ketamine, and tramadol, through darknet marketplaces.
Court documents reveal that Singh operated marketing sites on Silk Road, Alphabay, and Hansa marketplaces, where clients bought drugs using cryptocurrencies. He then arranged for the delivery of these substances to Europe and the U.S. through mail or courier services.
The investigation uncovered that Singh's organization had shipped about half a ton of drugs to the United States, creating a multimillion-dollar operation. The proceeds were laundered through mixer services like Tornado Cash.
Interesting Aspects of Singh's Case
- Singh, known as "Liston," used the signature phrase "I'm still dancing" in communications with buyers. US Attorney Kenneth L Parker remarked at the sentencing, “Today, with Banmeet Singh’s plea of guilty, the dance is over.”
- Singh managed at least eight coordinated workgroups across the United States.
- From 2012 to 2017, drugs were successfully delivered to all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Europe, and Caribbean countries.
- Postal Inspector in Charge Lesley Allison of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) stated that “all necessary actions are taken to remove dangerous and illegal drugs from the mail stream” but couldn't explain how hundreds of kilograms of MDMA were delivered by regular mail carriers.
- In a single year, Singh's associate in North Carolina dispatched 4,200 packages!
- The hidden bitcoins tripled in value during the investigation, worth $130 million at the time of Singh's arrest.
- Singh was arrested in London in 2019, where he worked as a pharmacy manager, and was extradited to the U.S. in 2023.
- If Singh hadn't pleaded guilty and agreed to surrender the cryptocurrency, he faced life imprisonment.
- The plea deal includes an eight-year prison sentence.
- The final judgment is still pending.
The Department of Justice might suspect that there are still a few thousand more BTC concealed somewhere.
What implications does this sentence hold for the future of the darknet?
The U.S. Prosecutor's Office has declared this incident as the largest crypto confiscation in terms of value in DEA's history, signaling that law enforcement won't rest on their laurels. They've shown they can effectively uncover, track, and penalize criminals operating on the darknet.
Banmeet Singh's voluntary admission of guilt marks a significant victory, serving as a stark warning to those in the shadow markets – if you're cornered, it's better to relinquish your gains to the government rather than face a fate similar to Ross Ulbricht's.