By Sam Stanton
The suspect in an international drug ring conspiracy made a brief appearance in federal court today just before officials were set to describe the three-year probe that led to his arrest.
Shiraz Malik, dressed in an orange Sacramento County jail jumpsuit, looked around occasionally and smiled as he was arraigned and had a not-guilty plea entered on his behalf.
Malik is accused of running a worldwide drug-smuggling scheme that utilized the internet to sell his everything from heroin to oxycontin. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.
He was arrested in Prague and extradicted to the United States.
Federal agents in Sacramento arrested Malik, a 34-year-old resident of Poland, after a three-year undercover investigation led by U.S. Drug Enforcement Agents in Sacramento.
In documents filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, authorities say Malik operated a massive international scheme to provide illegal and controlled substances to customers who arranged orders through emails.
The probe began in May 2008, when DEA agents learned of a website offering to sell and import drugs to the United States, including ephedrine, which can be used to manufacture methamphetamine, court documents state.
According to an affidavit by DEA Special Agent Daniel P. Moriarty, Malik used the Internet to sell drugs to purchasers in the United States, Mexico and other countries.
He allegedly sent the drugs to customers through express mail services after arranging for payment through U.S. banks, the Western Union service or a Hawala money broker in New York.
The DEA, using undercover addresses in the Sacramento area, arranged a series of purchases through Malik for drugs that were then shipped from overseas, the affidavit states.
Undercover agents posing as large-scale drug dealers also met with Malik in Milan, Vienna and Budapest, and were aided in identifying him by the fact that he attached a copy of his Pakistani passport to one of his emails, the affidavit states.
"It appears that Malik has a large U.S. based customer pool (some of which are repeat customers)," according to the affidavit.
Malik was originally indicted in September, but court papers in the case were sealed to avoid tipping him off and allowing him to go into hiding overseas. Online records show Malik was booked into the Sacramento County Jail on Saturday, the same day a new criminal complaint in the case was filed in federal court.
U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner and DEA and IRS officials are scheduled to announced Malik's extradition and arrest this afternoon in Sacramento.