DENVER — The leader of a European-based drug trafficking organization, which operated in secret using the Darknet, was sentenced Wednesday to 11 years in federal prison for conspiracy to import controlled substances into the United States, and conspiracy to launder money.
This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, District of Colorado. In addition to his prison sentence, U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson also ordered a personal money judgment against Filip Lucian Simion, 25, in the amount of $850,000.
This case was investigated by the Denver Illicit Digital Economy Working Group, which is comprised of the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service, in partnership with the Romanian Central Anti-Narcotics Unit in Bucharest, Romania, and the Belgian Federal Judicial Police, East Flanders Drug Unit in Dendermonde, Belgium. Other U.S. and international agencies assisting the working group in this investigation included: Boulder County (Colorado) Drug Task Force, the Arapahoe County (Colorado) Sheriff’s Office, the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices nationwide, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, Europol and Eurojust.
On May 3, 2016, in a joint U.S.-European enforcement action, law enforcement dismantled the ItalianMafiaBrussels Drug Trafficking Organization, arresting 10 defendants during early morning raids in Bruges, Belgium, and surrounding areas. Filip Lucian Simion and Leonardo Cristea were arrested simultaneously in Bucharest, Romania, and extradited to the District of Colorado in July and October 2016, respectively.
The nine-count indictment underlying the extraditions charged Filip Lucian Simion, Leonardo Cristea, and others with conspiracies to distribute and import into the United States controlled substances. The defendants were also charged with substantive counts of importing controlled substances and aiding and abetting. In addition, Filip Lucian Simion was charged in several counts of distributing controlled substances by means of the internet, and conspiracy to launder money.
The leader of this criminal organization, Filip Lucian Simion, pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to import into the United States controlled substances, and one count of conspiracy to launder money.
The evidence from the investigation revealed that from January 2013 through May 3, 2016, members of the conspiracy imported kilogram quantities of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, a Schedule I controlled substance commonly known as Ecstasy) into the United States via the mail from various countries in Europe. The transnational organization operated online as the Darknet vendor “ItalianMafiaBrussels” or “IMB.” They used encrypted email and TOR-based online black markets, such as the now defunct Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0, to sell the MDMA, primarily to U.S. and Canadian customers. This organization accepted payment for the drugs in bitcoin cryptocurrency. In 2014 and 2015, several defendants were charged and convicted in the District of Colorado for distributing MDMA sourced by the organization.
“Let there be no mistake. As the internet has grown, so has the long arm of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer. “If you’re harming people in Colorado, no distance is a safe distance. We will find you, we will bring you here, and we will send you to federal prison.”
“This case highlights the broad reach of the law enforcement community when we bring together state, federal and international partners to dismantle worldwide criminal organizations. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service would like to commend all those who came together to bring down one of the world’s largest distributors of illicit drugs,” said Kevin Rho, Inspector in Charge of the Denver Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “This case sends a clear message that criminals who use the U.S. mail to send illegal narcotics to American citizens are not safe hiding behind cryptocurrency transactions and foreign borders. Postal Inspectors are steadfast in their commitment to protecting the American public, and USPS employees, from the hazards of drugs in the mail,” said Rho.
“This sentence sends a strong message to dark Web merchants of illegal goods that law enforcement is coming for them,” said Steven Osborne, special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigation.
This case was prosecuted by Michele R. Korver, Digital Currency Counsel at the DOJ Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Unit, on detail from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Colorado.