Eight people from Long Island and Queens are facing federal charges for allegedly selling millions of deadly opioid pills throughout the country in a black market scheme, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
The defendants — including residents of Deer Park, Plainview and Dix Hills — were arrested Thursday on charges of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance containing Tramadol, a synthetic opioid, according to federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York.
In January 2018, federal authorities began investigating the large-scale importation of what prosecutors identified as misbranded controlled substances, including the pain medication Tramadol. Federal prosecutors allege that distributors in India mislabeled Tramadol and other drugs, and shipped them to the United States through mail and commercial couriers to avoid detection.
The defendants — who authorities allege maintained ledgers with the names, addresses, pill size and pill amounts ordered — primarily operated out of a warehouse in Queens, where they repackaged the pills and mailed them to customers, prosecutors said.
U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue said in a statement that authorities in Massachusetts, Maryland and Ohio assisted in the investigation.
“As alleged, the defendants participated in a black market for prescription medications by distributing millions of opioid pills in tens of thousands of transactions in one year alone,” Donoghue said in a statement. “This office and our law enforcement partners will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who profit from the suffering wrought by opioid distribution in the United States.”
The defendants were identified by federal prosecutors as:
Deepak Manchanda, 43, of Deer Park; Harpreet Singh, also known as "Vicky Singh," 28, of Plainview; Vikas M. Verma, 45, of Dix Hills; Mukul Chugh, 24, of Long Island City, Queens; Gulab Gulab, 45, of Richmond Hill, Queens; Ezhil Sezhian Kamaldoss, also known as "Kamaldoss Sezhian," "Kamal Doss" and "Ezhil Cezhian," 46, of Richmond Hill; Parthiban Narayanasamy, 58, of Jamaica, Queens; and Baljeet Singh, also known as "Sunny," 29, of Richmond Hill.
Kamaldoss also was charged with money laundering and, if convicted, faces up to 25 years in prison, prosecutors said. The other defendants face up to five years if convicted.
At their arraignments in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday, Kamaldoss, Harpreet Singh, Baljeet Singh, Gulab and Chugh were ordered held without bail, said federal courts spokesman John Marzulli. Manchanda, Verma and Narayanansamy were ordered released on bond, Marzulli said.
Defense attorneys for the defendants could not immediately be reached.
“Postal Inspectors are always at the forefront in protecting communities from the scourge of illegal drugs, no matter how they enter this country, and today’s arrests are a shining example of our commitment to keep the public safe,” U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector-in-Charge Philip Bartlett said in a statement.