Thursday, November 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

DrugNet

PUSHING PILLS
Akhil Bansal's double life put agents in Philadelphia on the high-tech high-stakes trail of rogue online pill dealers. Read the eight-part series as it appeared in the paper, with photos and graphics:
Chapter One: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3; Chapter Two: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3; Chapter Three: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3; Chapter Four: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3; Chapter Five: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3; Chapter Six: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3; Chapter Seven: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3; Chapter Eight: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3
CHAPTER 1
A Temple grad student's double life puts agents here on the high-tech, high-stakes trail of rogue online pill dealers.
Fighting a fever with pepper cardamom tea, the graduate student raced through his homework and e-mailed a PowerPoint presentation to classmates. American business school seemed so easy. Group homework assignments. Exam review sessions. Online classes. Open-book tests!
ABOUT THE SERIES

This series is based on multiple interviews with more than 50 sources; U.S. and Indian judicial, e-mail and bank records; and secret U.S. grand jury transcripts, Indian wiretaps, and DEA and Homeland Security investigative reports obtained by The Inquirer.
CHAPTER 2
Suspicious packages at the airport lead a DEA agent to Chester. A son leaves India - but not his family's pill business.
THE STORY SO FAR: Hours before DEA agents are to arrest Internet drug dealers in a worldwide sweep, Temple grad student Akhil Bansal races from his Roxborough apartment to flee home to India. Today's installment takes us back to the day the case began. It is February 2004.
CHAPTER 3
A big deal hinges on a screen test. The feds' team fans out, and can't believe what it sees.
THE STORY SO FAR: Pills discovered at Philly's airport launch DEA's first global Internet pharmacy case, leading agents to a rendezvous with a mysterious shipper and a clue from overseas. Today's installment begins as Akhil Bansal, smuggling a half-million pills a month here from India, prepares for the biggest business meeting of his young life. It is July 2004.
CHAPTER 3 ONLINE EXTRAS
In July 2004, Akhil Bansal presented this PowerPoint presentation to a Costa Rican client who was seeking an exclusive deal to buy 500,000 generic pills a month.
 
Download a free PowerPoint viewer from Microsoft
Video games didn't interest Akhil Bansal. Driving did. He’d push his Korean sedan to 80 m.p.h., crank up the air, and blast his stereo.
View an excerpt from a surveillance video showing drug shipments being unloaded from an automobile. The accompanying audio has been muted at the request of investigators.
CHAPTER 4
While agents race to Australia in search of Mr. Big, Akhil tries to balance love and work.
THE STORY SO FAR Temple grad student Akhil Bansal and his dad in India are making millions smuggling pills to Americans who buy them online. Today's installment begins as DEA agents race to Australia, hoping to head off a move that could ruin their big case. It is October 2004.
CHAPTER 5
Prosecutors like what they see - when equipment and colleagues cooperate. Clients and workers torment Akhil.
THE STORY SO FAR Now that agents know Temple grad student Akhil Bansal is Mr. Big - the brains behind the biggest global Internet pharmacy network DEA has ever seen - they call in reinforcements from Washington. Today's installment begins as agents try to wiretap Akhil's e-mail. It is January 2005.
CHAPTER 6
Father and son squabble over streamlining drug sales, while federal agents fight over turf.
As the feds wiretap Temple grad student Akhil Bansal's e-mail, Akhil wiretaps his employees and feuds with his father. Meanwhile, a Philly DEA agent dashes to India, hoping to listen to secret phone wiretaps of calls between Akhil and his father.
CHAPTER 7
Akhil loses his family's trust, his father loses his health, and the business loses security. Agents prepare to move.
THE STORY SO FAR DEA agents working their biggest online pharmacy case find a smoking gun: a brazen PowerPoint presentation made by Temple grad student Akhil Bansal, outlining his entire pill network. Today's installment begins as Akhil flies back to India, where his father has suffered a heart attack. It is March 2005.
CHAPTER 8
Akhil makes a dash for Canada, an FBI agent plays a hunch, and the feds hope an intricate global snare gets their prey in time.
THE STORY SO FAR In the middle of the night, hours before DEA and FBI agents are to arrest Internet drug dealers in a worldwide sweep, Temple grad student Akhil Bansal senses something is wrong and races from his Roxborough apartment to catch a plane back to India. Today's installment begins as Akhil flees.
CHAPTER 8: ONLINE EXTRAS
When questioned by federal agents, Akhil Bansal gave up the information easily, speaking freely for 90 minutes. One agent took 15 pages of notes. Akhil mostly confirmed what agents already knew - and even admitted that the operation was illegal.
More than 20 suspects around the world were targeted for arrest on April 19, 2005 — only two remain at large.
Akhil Bansal, his father Brij, sister Julie Agarwal and 14 others were accused of conspiracy to distribute and import a controlled substance, conducting a criminal enterprise, money-laundering, among other charges