The alleged ringleader of a huge Nigerian-run international heroin network and three men accused of being his lieutenants have been detained without bail as federal prosecutors in Baltimore unsealed indictments naming 15 more people as defendants in drug-related activities.
Magistrate Judge Catherine C. Blake yesterday detained Jerome Okoye "Peter" Onwuazor, 39, of Queens, N.Y., who prosecutors say smuggled at least $200 million worth of heroin into the United States for distribution in Baltimore, Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities.
Blake, in hearings in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, also ordered detention pending trial for Chuks E. Nwaneri, Ihenacho "Goodluck" Jinanwa, alias "Lucky," and Jerome Waweru, all of whom were arrested last week in raids by a Baltimore-based federal drug task force on conspiracy and related charges connected to Onwuazor's alleged smuggling network.
Emmanuel K. "Claytus" Anudu, alleged to be the No. 2 man in Onwuazor's organization, and another Nigerian, Emmanuel "John" Odemena, were to appear before Blake at detention hearings today.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert R. Harding described Onwuazor in court yesterday as "a significant heroin smuggler" who is believed to have smuggled more heroin into Maryland that anyone ever prosecuted here.
Harding told Blake that the government regards Onwuazor as an extreme danger to the community and believes that no bail would be large enough to prevent him from fleeing to his native Nigeria if he were to be released.
Onwuazor, who faces a possible no-parole life prison term if he is convicted, "is an imminent risk of flight" to avoid prosecution, Harding said.
"If he returned to Nigeria, he would simply join with his brothers and continue to export heroin," said the prosecutor.
Harding yesterday unsealed one indictment that charged six people with operating a companion heroin smuggling ring in Alexandria, Va., and Chicago, and another indictment that charged four defendants -- three of them are already in jail here -- with running still another smuggling network.
Prosecutor Debra A. Carr also unsealed an indictment that charges Baltimoreans Allen P. "Al" Smallwood, Kenneth "Kenny" Terry and three other defendants with distributing heroin in Baltimore that they allegedly obtained from Onwuazor.
Harding said the indictment tied to the Chicago operation was sealed until after the alleged ringleader, Okechuckwu "OK" Uduko, and two associates, were arrested over the weekend in Illinois and Northern Virginia.
Uduko, like Onwuazor, is charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, a charge that mandates a prison sentence of 20 years to life without parole, on conviction.
Harding said Uduko smuggled large quantities of heroin into Baltimore from 1989 until last week, when federal raids in several cities stopped the flow.
In one two-week period last fall, Uduko's organization tried to smuggle 17 kilograms of heroin from Singapore and Manila, the Philippines, into Baltimore, Harding said, but the shipments were stopped by undercover drug agents who had infiltrated the organization.
Harding said several Nigerians involved in the smuggling operations traveled to Singapore, the Philippines and Korea to funnel heroin shipments to the United States.
But he said those people probably will never be prosecuted in the United States because they cannot be extradited from Nigeria.