Nine purported members of a heroin trafficking ring have been charged in a scheme to smuggle heroin from Ghana into the United States through Dulles International Airport, authorities said Thursday.
The ring recruited couriers — including two Alexandria women — to hide $250,000 worth of heroin in carry-on bags designed to avoid airport security detection during at least four flights from Accra, according to Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
All nine were charged with conspiracy to import heroin, MacBride said. Some were also charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin.
Authorities said they arrested two men in Maryland, one man in New York, and three men in Ghana — including the ringleader — Thursday morning in a coordinated sting. The Alexandria women were arrested earlier and have been in custody, according to authorities; One Ghanaian man has been charged but is still at large.
Authorities say Edward Macauley, 61, of Ghana, led an organization that paid couriers up to $15,000 per trip to smuggle the heroin through Dulles to distributors in D.C., Baltimore, Northern Virginia and New York, according to a five-count indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The organization paid for the couriers’ airfare, passports and hotel rooms, according to the indictment.
Macauley allegedly worked with Fred Oppong Brobbey, 49, of Ghana, who designed bags to conceal more than a kilogram of heroin in their linings, according to court documents.
Macauley recruited Matilda Antwi, 29, of Alexandria, to smuggle 1.2 kilograms of heroin last September on a United Airlines flight from Accra to Dulles, court papers allege. Yvonne Ansah Owusu, 26, also of Alexandria, was arrested in May after U.S. Customs officials discovered a bulge in the lining of her luggage containing 3.3 kilograms of heroin when she arrived in Dulles from Accra, according to court documents.
Theophilus Akwei, 35, of Germantown, and Joseph Duodo, 54, of Greenbelt, allegedly picked up heroin shipments from couriers in February, court documents said.
William Andoh, 38, of the Bronx, is charged with distributing heroin smuggled from Ghana in Baltimore and in New York, according to court papers.
A man named Nuru, whose last name is unknown, and Frank Ehiobe, both of Ghana, are accused of working with Macauley to find couriers, court documents said.
The investigation is ongoing, MacBride said, and more people may be charged.
U.S. officials worked with the Ghana police and the Ghanaian Narcotics Control Board during the investigation, said Ava Cooper-Davis, special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington division.