An investigation into a Baltimore-based drug ring culminated today with the indictments of 28 Nigerians who officials say smuggled $200 million worth of heroin into the United States during the past year and a half.
The investigation by local, state and federal drug agents, initiated by the Baltimore office of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, included a series of early morning raids today at areas around the country.
During the raids, local drug agents seized 3 kilograms of heroin from a Greenmount Avenue pizza parlor, according to Roy Clagg, a special agent from U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Clagg said that $75,000 in cash was also seized.
The indictments also charged nine "violent, large-scale American heroin dealers" who operated out of several major cities, including Baltimore, Washington and New York, according to Richard D. Bennett, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland.
The Nigerian drug ring was based in Baltimore, officials said, and smuggled drugs by couriers who ingested heroin-filled balloons to avoid detection. The heroin was then transported from Baltimore to Chicago, New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
"In recent years, Nigeria has become a major transit point for Southwest and Southeast Asian heroin destined for the United States and Europe," said Robert C. Bonner, administrator for the DEA. "Nigerian organizations are a new and aggressive heroin trafficking threat."
Clagg said that agents seized three kilograms of heroin early today from a suspect who had stored heroin at the Rapid Pizza Delivery in the 2500 block of Greenmount Ave.
Clagg said the suspect, Jerome Onwuazor, a Nigerian living in New York, was arrested shortly after he left the pizza parlor with a suitcase containing the heroin.
He said that there was no evidence that the shop had been an ongoing site for storing drugs and that agents did not close it.
Those arrested were charged with importing heroin, possession with intent to distribute heroin, and related gun and money laundering charges. In addition, many were charged under the federal drug-kingpin law, agents said. The names of the suspects were not disclosed.