Minnesota Vikings kicker Donald Igwebuike is being investigated in connection with an alleged drug smuggling operation, ABC News reported last night.
ABC said the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa has "irrefutable evidence" linking Igwebuike, 29, to an attempt to smuggle heroin into the United States from his native Nigeria. He was with the Buccaneers for five seasons until this year.
ABC said that when asked about the allegations, Igwebuike, working out with the Vikings at their practice facility, confirmed he is the subject of an investigation but did not answer specific questions. "This isn't supposed to be news yet," he told the network. "Talk to my attorney."
Igwebuike's name surfaced about two weeks ago when a man was arrested by customs agents at Orlando Airport, ABC said. The man, identified as Maduwuba Ibekwe, a Nigerian who teaches school part-time in Tampa, had 31 small bags of heroin in his stomach, authorities told ABC.
The Orlando Sentinel, quoting U.S. Customs agents, reported Ibekwe also had three heroin pellets covered with feces and wrapped in a paper towel in his pants. Agents said the heroin totaled about one pound.
Law enforcement officials reported that Igwebuike bought the man's plane ticket and phone conversations indicated he was aware of the deal.
U.S. Customs officials have obtained a search warrant for Igwebuike's apartment in Bloomington, Minn.
Igwebuike's attorney, Larry E. Reed, said he had listened to a recording of a phone conversation between his client and Ibekwe.
"It was in the Nigerian language," Reed said. "I had it translated and there was no mention of drugs on the tape. I saw all the documents. I saw all the evidence and there is nothing to connect Donald to the case."
The Vikings said in a prepared statement they have not been contacted by federal authorities and will investigate the matter. The team said any decision on Igwebuike's status will be made by the league. An NFL spokesman refused to comment.