Members of Ghana-based heroin smuggling ring charged

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The leader and members of an international heroin trafficking ring have been charged with using couriers to smuggle heroin from Ghana into the United States, a sign of the growth of West Africa as a major hub for international drug trafficking. Today's charges were made public after coordinated arrests in Ghana, Maryland, and New York assisted by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to an April 28, 2011, indictment unsealed today and other court records, Edward Macauley, a/k/a "Cudjoe Opoku," 61, is a resident of Ghana and is the alleged leader of a Ghana-based heroin trafficking organization that recruits couriers to hide heroin in their carry-on bags to smuggle into the United States through Dulles International Airport. The organization pays couriers up to $15,000 to transport the heroin, along with providing airfare, passports, and hotel accommodations until the drugs are transferred to distributors within the United States. Macauley also allegedly works with a specialist who designs courier bags for the organization to conceal the heroin from detection when inspected.
Matilda Antwi, 29, of Alexandria, Va., is alleged to have been recruited by Macauley to be a courier for the organization, and she attempted to smuggle 1.2 kilograms of heroin on Sept. 4, 2010, through Dulles. Theophilus Akwei, 35, of Germantown, Md., and Joseph Duodo, 54, of Greenbelt, Md., are accused of receiving smuggled heroin from couriers in February 2011. William Ando, a/k/a "Willie," 38, of The Bronx, N.Y., is charged with being a heroin distributor for the trafficking ring in Baltimore, Md., and New York, N.Y.

Others charged include the following defendants, all residents of Ghana:

Nuru [last name unknown], a/k/a "Ohehe," is accused of working with Macauley to arrange for and use couriers in Ghana to transport heroin to the United States;
Frank Ehiobe, age estimated to be 54 or 59, is accused of working with Macauley to arrange for and use couriers in Ghana to transport heroin to the United States; and
Fred Oppong Brobbey, 49, is allegedly skilled at concealing heroin in suitcases used by Macauley's organization couriers to transport heroin into the United States.

All alleged members of the conspiracy have been charged with conspiracy to import heroin. Other charges brought against members of the conspiracy include distribution for the purpose of unlawful importation of heroin and possession with intent to distribute heroin. Each of the charges in the indictment carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, if convicted.

In a related case, Yvonne Ansah Owusu, 26, of Alexandria, Va., was arrested on May 29, 2011, after U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers allegedly discovered 3.3 kilograms of heroin hidden within the lining of her luggage as she departed a flight from Accra, Ghana, to Dulles. According to court records, Owusu allegedly told law enforcement that she was promised $15,000 to transport the suitcase containing heroin from Ghana to the United States. She is scheduled for a jury trial on Aug. 23, 2011, and also faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison, if convicted.

This Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation was conducted by: the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Washington and New York Field Divisions; DEA's Special Operations Division; Ghanaian Narcotics Control Board; Ghana Police Services, Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs; ICE HSI; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and Arlington (Va.) Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys James P. Gillis and Karen L. Dunn of the National Security and International Crime Unit are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

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