FOR transporting illicit drugs into the United States, a citizen of Ghana, Edward Macauley, 62, has been tried in the US District Court of Alexandria, Virginia and sentenced on Friday to 14 years in jail.
The extradition, trial and eventual conviction of Mr. Macauley snuffs the life off the tendency of Ghanaian drug runners like Macauley, who exploit the ignorance of foreigners unable to tell Nigerians apart from Ghanaians, not only to point at Nigerians as fraudsters and drug-runners, but also to claim Nigerian citizenship when apprehended by foreign authorities.
The drug ring headed by Macauley smuggled drugs through Dulles International Airport via a variety of methods: special compartments built into carry-on luggage, attached to underwear. In one case, the smugglers had sewn two pounds of heroin into a courier's wig.
The ring smuggled more than 10 pounds of heroin -- worth more than $800,000 -- from Ghana into the U.S. before it was shut down.
The case demonstrates the dubious creativity of those who try to smuggle drugs into the country, as well as the efforts that federal authorities make to extend enforcement of U.S. laws on an international basis.
Many of the dozen people charged in this scheme were arrested in Ghana and extradited to face trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Sentences handed down so far have ranged from 2 years for one of the low-level couriers to Macauley, who prosecutors said was a ringleader.
U.S. District Judge James Cacheris imposed the term prosecutors requested. Macauley's court-appointed attorney, William Cummings, had asked for the mandatory minimum of 10 years, citing Macauley's age and disputing the government's portrayal of Macauley as a ringleader.
Prosecutor James P. Gillis said the evidence showed Macauley was indeed a leader -- his co-conspirators even called him “Boss.”
“Mr. Macauley was at the top of this food chain,” Gillis told the judge. “He's not just referred to as ‘boss.’ He is the boss.”
Also Friday, Fred Brobbery was also sentenced to almost seven years for his role. On several smuggling runs, he built special compartments into the lining of the smugglers' carry-on luggage. Other smugglers hid the drugs in their underwear or wigs.
When the charges in this case were announced last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration said it reflects the current strategy of targeting smugglers in their home countries. The DEA has agents in more than 60 countries working international cases; the DEA said it received strong cooperation from Ghanaian authorities on this investigation. The ring was in operation for only about a year before the charges were filed.
The organization recruited Ghanaian citizens living legally in the U.S. to act as couriers, who were paid up to $15,000 per trip. Airport officials in Ghana received bribes of $2,000 or more to look the other way.