During a hearing in late September, the leader of an international darkweb drug trafficking syndicate was sentenced to 11 years in prison for importing ecstasy in massive quantities and conspiring with others to launder money in the United States. The convicted drug dealer, according to the Department of Justice, led an ecstasy and amphetamine trafficking organization that shipped kilograms of drugs into the United States from numerous European countries.
Filip Lucian Simion, the so-called “leader” of the drug trafficking organization known as Italian Mafia Brussels, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money at a plea hearing earlier this year. In his plea agreement, Simion admitted controlling the organization. He, along with one of his primary co-conspirators, orchestrated the trafficking of massive quantities of MDMA from darkweb vendor accounts on several marketplaces. Italian Mafia Brussels began on the Silk Road site in January 2013, United States Attorney Bob Troyer stated during a press conference earlier this year. Simion and Leonardo Cristea, 22, sold alongside at least nine other conspirators from early 2013 until their May 2016 arrests.
International law enforcement agencies investigated Italian Mafia Brussels as early as June 2013 when agents with the United States Customs and Border Protection Service intercepted a package containing almost 70 grams of MDMA at the Port of Cincinnati. Customs worked with authorities in Colorado—the state where the intended recipient had been living—in an effort to track down the source of the MDMA. Colorado law enforcement interviewed the unidentified suspect on the topic of his darkweb purchasing habits. The intended recipient, according to court documents, told his interviewers that he had ordered the MDMA from a darkweb vendor known as “IMB.” Investigators learned that “IMB” was an abbreviated version of a prolific darkweb drug vendor’s username.
After the very first package seizure, investigating Italian Mafia Brussels became a priority for United States law enforcement who worked alongside counterparts in Romania and Belgium, among many other law enforcement agencies in countries with some connection to Italian Mafia Brussels. The United States Postal Inspection Service; Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Criminal Investigation; Homeland Security Investigations; United States Customs and Border Protection Service; and the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs led the case from the perspective of law enforcement in Colorado. The Boulder County District Attorney’s Office and the county’s Drug Task Force worked the case from within Colorado.
The federal agencies pursuing Italian Mafia Brussels exchanged intelligence in coordination with Europol, Eurojust, Belgian Federal Judicial Police, and the Romanian Central Anti-Narcotics Unit. The authorities began piecing together a rough map of the location of many of the co-conspirators through evidence collected via controlled purchases and relevant information pertaining to a suspected member of a large drug trafficking organization. For instance, authorities in France intercepted at least 31 packages of MDMA attributed to Italian Magia Brussels headed through the French postal system to destinations in Europe and in Canada.
On May 3, 2016, international law enforcement agencies conducted raids in Romania, Belgium, and other countries in an early morning attempt at capturing all suspected conspirators in a single operation. At least 10 suspected drug traffickers connected to Italian Mafia Brussels were arrested during the raid that ended IMB’s successful career. Romanian police arrested both Simion and Cristea in Bucharest. Months after the arrest, both men were extradited to the United States where both faced drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
Earlier this year, Simion pleaded guilty in a Colorado court to one count on importing MDMA into the United States and one count of conspiracy to launder money. His primary co-conspirator, Cristea, pleaded guilty to one count of importation of ecstasy into the United States. U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson sentenced Cristea to a prison term of three years. The same judge, at a recent hearing in Denver, Colorado, sentenced Simion to 11 years in prison. The judge also denied an appeal to reduce the sentence based on the terms of the plea agreement. Simion, in good faith, will show law enforcement how he handled such a large drug trafficking network and how he managed his employees and other partners across several different countries.
Judge Jackson saw no need to reduce the prison sentence. Simion, as the leader of the organization, will spend significantly more time in prison than his other co-conspirators.