PHILADELPHIA — A drug trafficker and money launderer that brought in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Philadelphia’s largest cash seizure was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison and four years of supervised release after a multi-year investigation.
More than $5 million in cash and assets were seized during the investigation of large-scale drug trafficker Ronald Belciano, age 42, of Newtown Square (formerly Villanova), Pennsylvania. He was sentenced Tuesday to 63 months in prison by a federal judge in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for conspiracy to distribute 100 kilograms of marijuana in and through central Pennsylvania and conspiracy to commit money laundering between December 2007 and November 2011.
In 2011, Belciano rented a vehicle and filled it with nearly $1.2 million. He paid a co-conspirator to drive it from Pennsylvania to California to pay for marijuana grown on Belciano’s 190-acre property and to purchase from other growers in Northern California. HSI special agents obtained a search warrant for one of Belciano’s homes, located in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and found another nearly $2.6 million in cash along with 1.5 kilograms of marijuana.
Special agents working with other law enforcement later located 68 kilograms of marijuana, $316,800 in U.S. currency and 59 paintings valued at more than $600,000 in a storage locker as well as at a co-conspirator’s farm in Douglasville, Pennsylvania, used to warehouse and distribute the marijuana transported from California to Pennsylvania. Belciano was indicted by a grand jury in November 2011 and pleaded guilty in February 2014.
The assets seized and forfeited in this case included: his Villanova residence; a 190-acre property in Laytonville, California; artwork obtained with proceeds of the illegal activity and later appraised at over $619,000; and $4,084,060 in U.S. currency.
“When HSI, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Middle District U.S. Attorney, Pennsylvania Attorney General Bureau of Narcotics Investigations, Internal Revenue Service, Philadelphia Police Department, and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office are able to seize over $4 million in cash, narcotics, and other assets derived from distributing narcotics from a Main Line drug trafficker, we know we have successfully dismantled a large-scale, sophisticated organization.”
Co-defendant Stephen Fanfera is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 22. Fifty thousand dollars was forfeited in lieu of the equity in his Douglasville property. In a related HSI case prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, a Villanova art dealer Nathan Isen was charged with money laundering on Jan. 8.
This case was investigated by HSI High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Financial Group. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daryl F. Bloom.