A man from the Netherlands has been sentenced in federal court for crimes related to his distribution of drugs through the U.S. Postal Service and cooperating U.S. citizens, including a Gainesville resident.
L'Houssain Mahdiou, 37, of Amsterdam listened through a translator at times as Senior U.S. District Judge William O'Kelley considered evidence and imposed a sentence of 11 years, three months in prison, along with a $3,000 fine.
Mahdiou, who also agreed to forfeit $70,000, pleaded guilty in October to charges of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and LSD into the U.S.
O'Kelley's ruling followed testimony from a U.S. Postal Inspection Service inspector who described how a tipster led investigators to Mahdiou and his web-based scheme. The lead ultimately turned federal authorities onto men known as "reshippers" in California, Montana, Kentucky and Georgia.
The tipster called himself "John the Dutchman." His true identity, agents learned, was Mahdiou himself.
"(Mahdiou) felt he was being scammed," said K.L. Henry, a USPS inspector. "It was a threat used often with reshippers ... ‘If you scam me, I'm going to (tell) what you're doing.'"
The Gainesville man implicated in Mahdiou's tip was Nicholas Albano III.
Albano pleaded guilty on Nov. 3, 2009, to charges of possession with intent to distribute ecstasy, using a communication facility to facilitate drug trafficking and receiving child pornography.
He was sentenced on Feb. 12, 2010, to eight years in prison.
During his arrest, Albano tried to kill himself with a single gunshot wound to his head. He survived and later agreed to cooperate with federal authorities.
That's when Mahdiou's role in the scheme became clear, Henry testified.
He sent drugs to his reshipper contacts in the U.S. recruited through a website. They then shipped orders Mahdiou received from clients in the U.S.
When Netherlands authorities arrested Mahdiou in 2009, there were 17,000 hits of LSD in his apartment, 400 tablets of ecstasy and $70,000, according to the U.S. Attorneys office.
"In this case, an extensive international investigation and an extradition was necessary to cut off the flow of LSD, ecstasy and other dangerous drugs to our area," said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "A successful fight against those who import illegal drugs into our country requires cooperation not only at the federal, state and local level, but also with our international law enforcement counterparts."
Mahdiou took the witness stand during the hearing to explain certain aspects of his Netherlands operation. The drugs were subjected to scientific analysis for purity.
"I always tried to get the best, cleanest drugs," he said. "But it was hard to find."
Despite Friday's proceedings, O'Kelley's sentence may be ignored, adopted or amended in the Netherlands. As part of a treaty between the countries, Mahdiou can secure approval to his native country. A judge there can decide on a different sentence, according to court testimony.
"I don't think it's fair to say he'll get a free pass," Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Hulsey told the judge before the sentencing. "I think the best we can do is try to get it right here, what happens there, happens there."