By Van Smith
Published in City Paper, Apr. 1, 2009
Frank Aidoo must have an accommodating stomach. When he arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport last Friday evening, March 27, from London, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) already had information that he was suspected of being part of a Nigerian heroin-smuggling outfit, and he didn’t hold up well under questioning by agents. As soon as his initial story didn’t check out, Aidoo, a 55-year-old Ghana-born Dutch citizen, admitted to having ingested pellets of heroin-and later he passed 100 of them, containing a total of 1.2 kilograms of heroin, according to federal charging papers.
“Internal smugglers are relatively rare, especially here at BWI, so these CBP officers should be applauded for detecting this seriously dangerous concealment method and keeping heroin off our nation’s streets,” said James Swanson, CBP Port Director for the Port of Baltimore, in a press release sent out today. “Carriers run an enormous risk of a pellet breaching. It could mean almost certain death if only one pellet breached inside a carrier’s body.” Aidoo is “lucky to be alive,” Swanson concluded. The press release included a photo of the pellets that had traveled inside Aidoo’s intestinal tract.
Two weeks earlier, hotel security at Baltimore’s Marriott Waterfront Hotel alerted law enforcement to a half-kilo of heroin in a room rented by Edward Aboagye, a 27-year-old Ghanian who prosecutors accuse of being part of a conspiracy that was smuggling heroin pellets (“Room Service,” Mobtown Beat, March 25). Aboagye, a Morgan State University senior and car salesman, maintained his innocence, insisting that he rented the hotel room in order to meet a man about a car transaction.
Other than the alleged use of pellets and the fact that both defendants are of Ghanian descent, there appears to be no connection between the two arrests-though Aidoo’s case, coming so quickly on the heels of Aboagye’s, suggests that Ghana-tied “internal smuggling” may not be so rare, after all. Turns out, there’s a track record of busting similar operations in Maryland.
In 2006, a couple from Bowie, Godfrey Bonsu and Victoria Boateng, were convicted of heroin smuggling by a federal jury. They had been bringing heroin into the U.S. from Ghana, Germany, and the United Kingdom, using Ghanian couriers who swallowed pellets, arrived at BWI, and delivered them at hotel rooms, where Boateng and Bonsu retrieved the drugs.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), “West African criminal groups, primarily Nigerian, employ couriers to transport heroin” to BWI on “twice-weekly commercial flights from Ghana.” In August 2000, the NDIC report continues, two such couriers were arrested within a week of one another at the airport, bringing in a combined total of nearly two kilograms of heroin.
Since Ghana is known as a country from which travelers to BWI smuggle heroin pellets, another recent federal case involving a Ghanian arriving at BWI is worthy of mention.
On March 23-between the arrests of Aboagye and Aidoo-a woman arriving from Ghana on British Airways flight 229 (the same that Aidoo took, days later) presented herself as a U.S citizen, returning from a three-month visit with friends and family in Ghana. She had a passport in the name of Melinda Rochelle Chapman, but in her baggage were photo IDs bearing the name Mabel Penelope Aryee. Under questioning, according to the charging papers, the woman admitted that she is actually Aryee, is from Ghana, and is not a U.S. citizen.
Given the sudden prevalence of Ghanian heroin pellets arriving at BWI, it’s a pretty good guess that the questions law enforcers have for Aryee are only just beginning.