20 arrested in Md.-N.Y. drug-smuggling 2 Nigerians said to be running heroin ring.

July 17, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

In The Sun and The Evening Sun yesterday, the amount of heroin allegedly distributed by a ring headed by Nigerians was misstated. According to investigators, it distributed about 4 kilograms of heroin a month, with a street value of $4 million.

* The Sun regrets the error.

Federal and local investigators said yesterday they cracked a $4 million-a-month international heroin-smuggling operation with the arrests of 20 suspects in Baltimore, four Maryland counties and New York.

Officials said the operation was run by Nigerians who smuggled heroin into the United States from Thailand through Lagos, Nigeria, to the Baltimore area. The arrests during a sweep Wednesday and early yesterday culminated a 13-month Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The Maryland arrests were made in Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Manuelian. Five raids were carried out in Laurel, three in Baltimore and two in Silver Spring. Three people were arrested in New York and charged by prosecutors there.

Authorities seized an undisclosed amount of heroin, cash, firearms and vehicles. The probe continues, officials said.

The suspects were charged with conspiracy to import and distribute heroin, and related charges. Conviction would bring a mandatory 10 years in prison without parole.

Officials said the drug organization was headed by Romanus Nwaneri, 30, owner of Ricardo's Pizza Shop in Laurel, and Lawrence Okoye, 31, of Silver Spring.

Another suspect, Robert D. "Donnie" Jones, 40, of the 4900 block of Westhills Road in Baltimore, was described by officials as a major street dealer of heroin in the city.

The investigation started in June 1991 after authorities developed leads on Nigerian drug trafficking in the Baltimore area, officials said. On a number of occasions, they said, undercover investigators bought heroin from key members of the smuggling ring, including Mr. Nwaneri and Mr. Okoye.

Investigators said they eventually learned that the drug operation was international in scope and that members of the ring were responsible for the monthly distribution of 4 million kilograms of heroin per month, with a street value of more than $4 million.

Law enforcement agencies in the probe include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Customs Service, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Baltimore police.

Seventeen of the 20 suspects arrested in Maryland appeared for a hearing yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Catherine C. Blake. They were held pending detention hearings Monday and Tuesday.

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