Manchester Evening News

Cannabis smuggler goes from America’s Got Talent to serving chips in jail

- By AMY WALKER

A DANCER from the US who claims he was desperate for cash following a ‘cancer’ scare was caught with over 30 kilos of cannabis at Manchester Airport.

Elijah Flores, who has performed on America’s Got Talent, spoke to border force officials at Terminal Two after arriving from Thailand.

Asked if he had anything to declare, he said no, before being taken to the baggage search area, Manchester Crown Court heard. Officers found packages of cannabis with a total weight of 37.2 kilograms.

The estimated street value of the drugs was almost £1m. Flores, from California, told officers he’d had a ‘penile cancer’ scare and couldn’t afford medical insurance to pay for tests and treatment.

He claimed a ‘friend’ offered him $3,000 to take drugs into the UK. The 28-year-old was jailed after admitting importing class Bs.

Earlier, prosecutor Phil Hall said at around 9.55pm on November 21 last year, Flores approached a border force officer in the baggage reclaim hall. He asked if there was a cash exchange, before being asked where he had flown in from.

Flores said he had been in Thailand and said he had nothing to declare. He was escorted to the baggage search area, where he told officers he only had clothes in his bags, that he was in Thailand for three days and that he was a dancer.

His four bags – including a Gucci rucksack – were x-rayed, before 64 packages of cannabis were discovered. “The packages were weighed and contained a total of 37.02kg,” Mr Hall said. “The cannabis was valued as having a wholesale value of £192,000, with a street value of £960,000, although that is based on a slight underweigh­t

Elijah Flores was jailed for a year and a half

assessment of 32kg.” Flores was arrested and interviewe­d. “He stated he was given instructio­ns of what to do via a WhatsApp group on his phone that contained four other people and that he was told that someone would contact him on his arrival into the UK and collect the suitcases from him,” the prosecutor added.

Flores accepted he knew he was importing cannabis into the UK. “It is the Crown’s case that he was a drug mule, performing a limited function and had no influence on others,” Mr Hall added.

Hugh Barton, mitigating, said his client’s work as a dancer and choreograp­her took him around the globe. He has danced on shows including America’s Got Talent.

“It’s difficult to envisage the kind of events that would lead him to Liverpool prison – it’s totally out of character,” he said.

Mr Barton said Flores had a health scare. Having searched the internet for symptoms of ‘penile cancer,’ he didn’t have medical insurance to pay for test results and treatment.

“There was no fall back position for him,” Mr Barton said, adding: “It was in that context he was approached by a ‘friend,’ more somebody who took advantage of his state of apprehensi­on and offered this as a means of raising an amount of cash quickly.”

Mr Barton said Flores has been working as a cleaner and cook in prison. He had run into trouble when other prisoners accused him of ‘not giving big enough portions of chips,’ the court heard. “He is desperate to return home to his family and to his career,” Mr Barton said. “He has not been served deportatio­n pages, but it is his intention to return to the US as quickly as he can.”

Sentencing, Recorder Katie Jones told Flores: “You were trusted with a large amount of cannabis, so I find you must have had some form of understand­ing of the scale of the operation.

“You were willing to take on this role and fully understood what was involved and what was expected of you.”

Flores, of Glendova, California, was jailed for a year and six months after pleading guilty to the fraudulent evasion of the prohibitio­n of importing cannabis.

He will serve half of the term in prison before he will be eligible for automatic deportatio­n.

Sadiq Al-lami

childhood friend, who asked not to be named, said: “He was a good guy, if you were in a bad mood and bumped into him I can guarantee you’ll leave him smiling.

“The guy was a very good guy. He’ll help everyone out before he helps himself. He always checked in, he always asked how my kids were, my family, he always popped up wishing Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It’s sad that whatever’s happened has happened.”

Sadiq, friends say, was given the name ‘Pitbull’ because of his ‘short and stocky’ stature and happy-golucky attitude. A friend added: “That’s what I loved about him, he didn’t care about anyone’s opinion or if anybody was trying to put him down. He was always on top.”

Pal Shannon Dahanayake said: “Pitbull was a soul sent from above to make everyone smile. Sadiq was my best mate and we had weekly catch ups about everything and his smile was infectious and his laugh was loud and contagious.”

Anyone with informatio­n can call police on 101, quoting log 166 of 23/01/2024.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom