The feds have wanted Nello Quagliani for 20 years. Finally, they have him in custody.
The alleged mastermind of a global Ecstasy racket who is accused of sending drug couriers on planes to Miami has been extradited from South Africa.
Quagliani, 61, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in Miami federal court to conspiracy charges to import and distribute MDMA in the United States, along with money laundering. Each of the three charges carries up to 20 years in prison. Quagliani, who is represented by the federal public defender’s office, agreed not to challenge his detention before trial. His defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Quagliani is the last of about 30 defendants in his alleged ring who have been prosecuted and convicted on the Ecstasy smuggling charges dating back to 1996, according to court records and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Federal prosecutors had been asking for Quagliani’s extradition from South Africa since 2003, when he was arrested by Interpol authorities, court and government records show. But Quagliani, with Italian and South African citizenship, obtained a bond and managed to avoid being extradited for the next 19 years — until he was flown on a plane last week to Miami.
An extradition request, filed by former federal prosecutor David Weinstein in Miami, put Quagliani at the top of an international ecstasy smuggling ring based in the Netherlands, where the drug was allegedly purchased in massive volumes.
“Nello Quagliani provided the MDMA to the members of the organization in Europe as well as received money from the corresponding sale of the MDMA after it had been successfully smuggled into the United States,” Weinstein wrote in the extradition request, which included a federal indictment and DEA criminal complain and affidavit.
“Nello Quagliani also assisted in the collection of the proceeds from the sale of the MDMA,” he noted, adding that the profits in U.S., Canadian, Dutch, Swiss and German currencies were smuggled out of the United States.
According to the DEA affidavit and other records, Quagliani collaborated with associates in his ring to buy hundreds of thousands of ecstasy pills from Holland between 1996 and 2000. He is accused of hiring couriers to transport the drug, which at the time was popular by the street name “Molly” in South Florida’s clubs, on commercial flights to Miami International Airport, according to the affidavit filed by retired DEA agent Joseph Kilmer.
Kilmer developed a confidential source who had dealings with Quagliani and another partner, John Moya, the affidavit says. Through undercover recordings, the agent was able to link both men to a Jan. 22, 1998, shipment of 5,774 tablets of MDMA that were seized at MIA by U.S. Customs inspectors.
“The [confidential source] stated that Quagliani and Moya are large-scale distributors who send MDMA from Holland to the United States and elsewhere,” the affidavit says.
The source recorded calls with Moya who admitted “his own involvement” in the January shipment to Miami, the affidavit says. Moya later traveled to Miami and met with the DEA agent and source, admitting in recorded statements that he and Quagliani organized the January load of Ecstasy seized at the airport.
After his arrest, Moya said that Quagliani was his “partner” in MDMA trafficking.