Nige­rian pleads guilty in US for run­ning drug car­tel

Daily Trust - - AFRICA -

Koy­ode Lawrence, aka “Papa,” who re­cruited col­lege stu­dents in Nigeria to trans­port heroin into the U.S., has pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to im­port a con­trolled sub­stance, an­nounced United States At­tor­ney Kenneth Magid­son.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ini­ti­ated on Fe­bru­ary 18, 2001, fol­low­ing the ar­rests of two co-de­fen­dants at Bush In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Air­port (IAH) as they at­tempted to in­ter­nally smug­gle 1498 grams of heroin into the coun­try from Nigeria.

Both men were de­ter­mined to be work­ing for Lawrence, 45, of La­gos, Nigeria.

Lawrence headed the or­ga­ni­za­tion in which couri­ers would swal­low heroin-filled pel­lets in Nigeria, en­ter the U.S. and ex­pel the pel­lets upon ar­rival at their fi­nal des­ti­na­tion.

Lawrence re­cruited car­ri­ers who had dual U.S. and Nige­rian ci­ti­zen­ship be­cause he (Lawrence) be­lieved them to be less sus­pi­cious.

Gen­er­ally, most were born in the U.S. when their par­ents were at­tend­ing school and moved back to Nigeria while still chil­dren. Most of the car­ri­ers were re­cruited while at­tend­ing col­lege in Nigeria.

In­di­vid­u­als called “strik­ers” re­cruited po­ten­tial couri­ers and brought them to Lawrence’s house in La­gos, where they were tested for their in­ter­nal smug­gling abil­ity. Some of the couri­ers re­quired ex­ten­sive train­ing to de­velop the abil­ity to swal­low be­tween 700 and 800 grams of heroin-filled pel­lets at a time. The couri­ers were paid be­tween $6,000 and $15,000 per trip.

Lawrence ac­com­pa­nied car­ri­ers to a ho­tel in Ghana where they were given the heroin pel­lets to swal­low.

The car­ri­ers usu­ally then flew from Ghana to Am­s­ter­dam and then to an in­ter­na­tional air­port in the U.S., fre­quently ar­riv­ing at IAH. Upon ar­rival, they were met by a man­ager who would es­cort them back to an apart­ment in Chicago, where they were in­structed to ex­pel the pel­lets. Car­ri­ers would of­ten stay in Chicago for sev­eral days un­til ar­range­ments could be made for their re­turn.

Be­tween March 2000 and Novem­ber 2002, 14 heroin ar­rests were sub­se­quently linked to Lawrence with mul­ti­ple his­tor­i­cal runs fur­ther at­trib­uted to him. Through­out the con­spir­acy, the Lawrence or­ga­ni­za­tion is re­spon­si­ble for im­port­ing at least 29 kilo­grams of heroin into the U.S. from Nigeria.

Lawrence fought his ex­tra­di­tion from Nigeria for nearly 10 years and was fi­nally brought to the U.S. in the lat­ter part of 2013.

U.S. District Judge Nancy F. At­las ac­cepted the plea and set sen­tenc­ing for July 9, 2014, at which time Lawrence faces a manda­tory min­i­mum of 10 years and up to life im­pris­on­ment as well as a po­ten­tial $5 mil­lion fine. He will re­main in cus­tody pend­ing that hear­ing.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion leading up to the charges was con­ducted by Home­land Se­cu­rity In­ves­ti­ga­tions and Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion. As­sis­tant United States At­tor­ney Stu­art A. Burns is pros­e­cut­ing the case.


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