Five Estonian residents arrested for conspiring to import carfentanil and fentanyl into the United States
WASHINGTON – Christopher T. Tersigni, Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, today announced that Estonian residents Jevgeni Bokov, Viktor Litvintsuk, Amid Magerramov, Nikolai Niftalijev, and Vitali Voronjuk have been charged in an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court with narcotics trafficking and money laundering offenses, including conspiracy to import carfentanil and fentanyl into the United States. In the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized more than five kilograms of mixtures and substances containing carfentanil, representing one of the largest seizures of a fentanyl analogue in the DEA’s history.
The defendants were arrested in Estonia in September 2018, based on the charges in this case. Today, Bokov, Magerramov, and Voronjuk were extradited to the United States, and they were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang this afternoon. Litvintsuk was previously extradited to the United States and arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry B. Pitman on Feb. 6, 2019. Niftalijev remains in custody in Estonia, where proceedings for his extradition to the United States are pending. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken.
“Fentanyl and carfentanil are extremely dangerous and deadly,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Tersigni. Two milligrams of fentanyl, the amount of two grains of salt, can kill a person, and carfentanil is even more potent. We are pleased to see these individuals brought to justice as we continue to fight to keep this poison out of the United States.”
“The arrest of these five defendants for allegedly conspiring to traffic large quantities of carfentanil – a drug 1,000 times more potent than heroin – is yet another important case brought by this Office and the DEA in keeping deadly drugs out of our neighborhoods,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Berman. A key component in battling the opioid epidemic is disrupting the supply chain, and today is another important step in that fight.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment and the Complaints previously filed against the defendants:
Between October 2017 and August 2018 the defendants conspired to import large quantities of carfentanil and fentanyl into the United States. Carfentanil is a fentanyl analogue approximately 1,000 times more potent than heroin and is used commercially to sedate large animals, such as elephants. During that period, the defendants participated in a series of recorded meetings and telephone communications with an individual they understood to be affiliated with an international drug trafficking organization, for the purpose of arranging to import narcotics into the United States. That individual was, in fact, a confidential source (“the CS”) working with the DEA. Litvintsuk, Magerramov, Niftalijev, and Voronjuk prepared and distributed a total of more than five kilograms of substances containing carfentanil for importation into the United States. In addition, Bokov laundered hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars, which he understood to be illicit narcotics proceeds, from Europe to the United States.
In mid-October 2017, Magerramov and Bokov met together with the CS in a country in Eastern Europe (“Country-1”). During the meeting, the CS informed Magerramov and Bokov that the CS was a member of a Colombian drug cartel that distributed narcotics in the United States and laundered the resulting proceeds. Several days later, on Oct. 20, 2017, the CS met with Bokov to discuss laundering money for the purported cartel. At the meeting, Bokov agreed to transfer narcotics proceeds for the cartel from Europe to the United States. Between the fall 2017 and spring of 2018, the CS provided Bokov with approximately €250,000 in cash, which Bokov had been informed constituted narcotics proceeds, and Bokov agreed to transfer the cash to a bank account in New York City, which was in fact controlled by the DEA. Over the course of multiple transactions, Bokov transferred the funds, less a five percent commission, from Europe to the New York bank account.
Throughout late 2017 and early 2018, the CS also participated in a series of meetings with Litvintsuk, Magerramov, Niftalijev, and Voronjuk to discuss narcotics transactions. During the meetings, Litvintsuk, Magerramov, Niftalijev, and Voronjuk agreed to provide the CS with fentanyl in a country in Europe (“Country-2”), with the understanding that the fentanyl would be transported to the United States, mixed with heroin and other controlled substances, and sold to the cartel’s customers in New York City, among other places.
In May 2018, Magerramov coordinated the delivery of samples of carfentanil to the CS in Country-2. On May 9, 2018, Magerramov, Niftalijev, and Voronjuk delivered three samples of narcotics to an agreed-upon location in Country-2. The three samples were seized by law enforcement, tested in a laboratory, and found to contain approximately 550 grams of mixtures and substances containing carfentanil. The CS later informed Magerramov that the three samples had been transported to the United States, that the purported cartel was satisfied with the quality of the narcotics, and that the CS wanted to purchase additional carfentanil from Magerramov and his associates.
In late May 2018, Magerramov arranged to have additional carfentanil delivered to the CS for importation into the United States. On May 30, 2018, Voronjuk delivered a package of narcotics to an agreed-upon location in Country-2. The package was seized by law enforcement, tested in a laboratory, and found to contain approximately 5.2 kilograms of mixtures and substances containing carfentanil. The CS subsequently reported to Magerramov that the carfentanil had been transported to the United States.
During June and July 2018, the CS continued to meet and communicate with the defendants about arranging additional narcotics transactions in the future and payment for the carfentanil that had been delivered. On July 17, 2018, the CS provided Bokov with approximately $20,000, and Bokov agreed to transfer that money to an account controlled by Magerramov, with the understanding that the $20,000 payment was for additional carfentanil that would be imported into the United States.
Bokov, 44, Magerramov, 38, Niftalijev, 32, And Voronjuk, 36, all of Estonia, and Litvintsuk, 39, of Russia, are charged with one count of conspiring to import 100 grams and more of carfentanil and 400 grams and more of fentanyl into the United States, and to manufacture and distribute 100 grams and more of carfentanil and 400 grams and more of fentanyl, intending that the narcotics would be imported into the United States. That charge carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. Litvintsuk, Magerramov, Niftalijev, And Voronjuk are also charged with two counts of manufacturing and distributing 100 grams and more of carfentanil, intending that it would be imported into the United States, each of which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Bokov is further charged with two counts of money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division; the DEA’s Country Office in Copenhagen, Denmark; the United States Marshals Service; the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service; the Estonia Central Criminal Police; the Estonia Office of the Prosecutor General; the Estonia Ministry of Justice; and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs.
This case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn G. Crowley and George D. Turner are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment and Complaints are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.