Members Of International Narcotics Trafficking Conspiracy Charged In Manhattan Federal Court
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Derek Maltz, the Special Operations Division Special Agent-in-Charge of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), today announced the unsealing of charges against SAMUEL ANTONIO PINEDO-RUEDA, SOLOMON ADELAQUAYE, FRANK MUODUM, and CELESTINE OFOR ORJINWEKE on charges that they conspired to import heroin into the United States. PINEDO-RUEDA, 72, a citizen of Colombia, was apprehended in Colombia on May 16, 2013 pursuant to a Red Notice issued at the request of the United States, and is awaiting extradition. ADELAQUAYE, 48, a citizen of Ghana, and MUODUM, 44, and ORJINWEKE, 53, citizens of Nigeria, were arrested in New York on May 9, 2013, and were presented and arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “These alleged narco-traffickers assumed they had secured safe passage for their heroin from West Africa to the United States by paying off an airport insider, but unbeknownst to them, the people on the other side of their transaction were law enforcement insiders working for the DEA. Together with our partners, we remain committed to thwarting these plots before they are executed and to apprehending and prosecuting those responsible.”
DEA Special Operations Division Special Agent-in-Charge Derek Maltz said: “Drug trafficking in West Africa has become a plague. These criminal groups and their facilitators pose a direct threat to the safety and security of innocent Americans. Together with our law enforcement partners, DEA is dismantling illicit drug networks in western Africa and around the world, and putting the criminals who operate them behind bars where they belong.”
According to the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
In February 2012, in Accra, Ghana, PINEDO-RUEDA, MUODUM, and ORJI NWEKE sold one kilogram of heroin to two confidential sources (“the CSs”) working for the DEA. In meetings in connection with the heroin sale, one of the CSs purported to be a Colombian narcotics trafficker in search of heroin to sell to customers in New York City; the other CS purported to be a courier for that trafficker, who would transport the heroin to New York for distribution. ADELAQUAYE, who was responsible for security at the international airport in Ghana, agreed to facilitate the movement of the heroin through the airport without detection, in exchange for a $10,000 payment.
In May 2013, ADELAQUAYE, MUODUM, and ORJINWEKE further agreed that one of the CSs would supply them with 3,000 kilograms of cocaine and that in exchange, they would supply the CS with a quantity of heroin of equivalent value, to be delivered to the United States in 25-kilogram increments.
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The Indictment charges each of the defendants with one count of conspiring to import heroin and to distribute heroin, knowing and intending that it would be imported into the United States. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The charges and arrests of the defendants are the result of the close cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the DEA’s Special Operations Division, the DEA Ghana Country Office, and the DEA Bogota Country Office. Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA and thanked the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs for its assistance. Mr. Bharara also thanked the Government of Ghana for its cooperation.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Michael Ferrara is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.