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Leader of Ghanaian Heroin Trafficking Organization Sentenced to 216 Months

MAY 24 (ALEXANDRIA, Va.) – Mustapha Issaka Zico, 41, of Nima, Ghana, was sentenced today to 216 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiring to import heroin from Ghana into the United States. He was also ordered to forfeit $110,000.

Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Karl C. Colder, Special Agent in Charge for Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Washington Division Office; and John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C., made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Liam O’Grady.

Zico was found guilty on January 25, 2013, following a three-day trial. According to court documents, the defendant was one of the ringleaders of a multi-kilogram heroin trafficking organization in Ghana.  The organization used couriers aboard commercial airlines to smuggle heroin from Ghana to the United States, frequently from the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana, to Dulles International Airport in the Eastern District of Virginia, as well as other airports in the United States.  According to the indictment and evidence at trial, Zico and his co-conspirators paid off airport officials in Ghana to allow safe passage of the heroin.  Zico was directly involved in several heroin shipments and directed the activities of previously convicted co-conspirators Edmund Darkwah, Fred Brobbey, and Matilda Antwi, all of whom pled guilty to charges in the Eastern District of Virginia.  Zico shared leadership of the conspiracy with Edward Macauley, who was also convicted in the Eastern District of Virginia and sentenced to 168 months’ imprisonment.

Five defendants were extradited from Ghana to stand trial in the Eastern District of Virginia after coordinated arrests by the Ghanaian Narcotics Control Board, while other co-conspirators were arrested in New York, Maryland, and Virginia on July 14, 2011. 

Still more defendants were charged, arrested, and extradited from Ghana in 2012.  In all, eleven co-conspirators were convicted.

This Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation was conducted by the DEA, including agents in Washington, New York, and Ghana, and by DHS Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the Ghanaian Narcotics Control Board and Ghana Police Services, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

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