Investigation Leads to Successful Extradition of Ecstasy Kingpin Fugitive
from Spain to the United States
ANTHONY P. PLACIDO, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York, and Roslynn R. Mauskoph,United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York ,today announced the extradition of fugitive ODED TUITO from Spain to the United States to stand trial on federal drug charges involving the importation of millions of MDMA ("ecstasy") pills from Europe into the United States, and the laundering of millions of dollars in cash proceeds of that drug trafficking. On May 31, 2002, President George W. Bush designated TUITO as a "drug kingpin" pursuant to the 1999 Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, which blocks designees' access to the U.S. financial system and provides for criminal penalties and other sanctions for those who do business with them.
Since the fall of 1998, the Drug Enforcement Administration has been conducting an investigation under the auspices of the United States Department of Justice Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force into the single largest ecstasy-smuggling organization identified to date. According to the indictment and superseding indictment against TUITO, and complaints filed against related defendants, TUITO, an Israeli national residing from time to time in New York, California, and France, organized and supervised a massive ecstasy scheme beginning at least as early as 1997. The TUITO organization imported millions of ecstasy pills from Paris, Brussels and Frankfurt into New York, Miami and Los Angeles, and asserted the protection of Israeli organized crime. As the head of the organization, TUITO oversaw the recruitment of couriers, the shipment of drugs into the United States, and the return shipment of millions of dollars in cash proceeds of drug trafficking from the United States to Europe.
TUITO's underlings recruited dozens of couriers, principally from New York, Miami, Las Vegas, California and Israel, to serve as ecstasy couriers. In the United States, typically, young women employed as dancers at topless nightclubs, such as Scores and Tens in Manhattan, were recruited to make ecstasy smuggling trips. Each courier imported between 30,000 and 60,000 pills at a time, and smuggled hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time in drug proceeds back to TUITO in Europe.
In November 1999, a grand jury in Brooklyn returned an indictment charging TUITO with conspiracy to distribute ecstasy and related charges. In March 2000, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging TUITO with conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, importation of ecstasy, distribution of ecstasy with the intent to import it, related drug conspiracies, and conspiracy to engage in money laundering. The superseding indictment also includes criminal forfeiture charges.
In January 2000, French law enforcement authorities arrested TUITO in Fresnes, France, in the vicinity of Nice, based on a provisional arrest warrant issued in this district. The United States then sought TUITO's extradition from France. However, TUITO sought and obtained from a French civil court a certificate of French nationality, due to his father's alleged Algerian citizenship prior to 1959 when Algeria gained independence from France. As a result, because the Treaty between France and the United States does not provide for extradition of French nationals to the United States, in October 2000, a French court dismissed the American extradition proceeding and TUITO was released from custody. On May 18, 2001, TUITO was apprehended in Barcelona, Spain, by Spanish law enforcement authorities acting on a provisional arrest request from this district. TUITO was held in Spanish custody pending extradition proceedings.
On March 25, 2003, after TUITO had exhausted all of his appellate rights under the Spanish judicial system, Spanish authorities notified the United States Embassy in Madrid that the Spanish Council of Ministers had granted the United States' request for TUITO's extradition. The United States Marshal's Service took custody of TUITO on April 15, 2003, and transported him to John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was held in custody overnight pending his arraignment this morning before United States Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak at the U. S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.
This investigation benefited from the extraordinary cooperation provided by the Dutch National Police, the French National Police, the German National Police, the Israeli National Police and the Spanish National Police. In late 1999, in response to a letter rogatory request, German authorities provided United States authorities with copies of evidence derived from a court-authorized wiretap on telephones used by TUITO's organization in Germany. The outstanding cooperative efforts between the Israel National Police and law enforcement authorities throughout the European community resulted in TUITO's apprehension in Spain.
To date, six couriers and recruiters for the TUITO organization have pled guilty to ecstasy smuggling charges in this district, and numerous other couriers and recruiters were prosecuted in other districts. TUITO's case in this district is pending before United States District Judge Raymond J. Dearie.
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge PLACIDO stated, "The arrest and extradition of Oded Tuito is a major victory in our efforts to protect the public from the negative consequences of dangerous drugs such as MDMA or ecstasy. This arrest and extradition will not only serve to disrupt the flow of millions of dosage units of illegal drugs into our country, it also sends the unmistakable message to criminals that they can run, but they cannot hide. The Drug Enforcement Administration is committed to tracking down major drug criminals that violate American law. Working in cooperation of our international partners, we will track down these predators - - no matter where they operate - - and bring them to justice."
In announcing TUITO's extradition, United States Attorney Mauskoph stated, "Our patience is inexhaustible when it comes to bringing drug kingpins to justice. After fighting for over three years, TUITO has lost his battle to avoid the American justice system. Now he will stand trial on these serious charges. I would like to express my gratitude to law enforcement authorities here and around the world, whose tireless efforts advanced the investigation and led to the capture of this significant fugitive."
If convicted on the continuing criminal enterprise charge, TUITO faces a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, and $2 million in fines. If convicted on the other pending drug charges, TUITO faces a maximum of 20 years incarceration and $1 million in fines on each count. If convicted on the money-laundering charge, TUITO faces a maximum of 20 years incarceration and $500,000 in fines. The investigation is continuing.