Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that FRANCOIS SOUROU AHISSOU, a citizen of Togo, pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court to participating in a conspiracy to import narcotics into the United States. AHISSOU was arrested in Monrovia, Liberia, in coordination with Liberian authorities in February 2011 and transferred to the custody of the United States. He pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Francois Ahissou willingly sold cocaine to people who represented themselves to be associates of the Taliban, knowing that at least some of that cocaine was bound for the United States. But in reality, his ‘clients’ were working with the DEA and his deal was not consummated. West Africa has increasingly become a haven for narco-traffickers, and with the combined strength of our national and international law enforcement partners, we are dismantling these drug rings.”
According to the Indictment and Complaint previously unsealed in this case:
Beginning in the summer of 2010, AHISSOU and some of his co-defendants (the “co-defendants”) communicated with confidential sources (“CSs”) working with the DEA, who purported to represent the Taliban. The communications occurred by telephone, via e-mail, and in a series of audio-recorded and videotaped meetings over several months in various countries including Ghana, Ukraine, and Romania.
During meetings with the CSs beginning in June 2010, AHISSOU and his co-defendants agreed to sell multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine to the Taliban with the understanding that portions of the cocaine would be transported to the United States by commercial airline and then sold in this country for a profit. AHISSOU also helped arrange the sale of an approximately 800-gram sample of cocaine to the CSs in October 2010.
AHISSOU, 47, pled guilty to one count of conspiring to distribute cocaine, knowing and intending it would be imported into the United States. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. AHISSOU is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Buchwald on August 7, 2013 at 3:45 p.m.
The charges against AHISSOU were the result of the coordinated efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the DEA’s Special Operations Division, as well as the DEA Lagos Country Office, the DEA Warsaw Country Office, the DEA Ghana Country Office, the DEA Athens Country Office, and the DEA SECI (South East European Cooperative Initiative Regional Center for Combating Transborder Crime). Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA and thanked the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs and National Security Division, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their assistance. Mr. Bharara also thanked the Government of Liberia for its cooperation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christian Everdell, Aimee Hector, and Glen Kopp are in charge of the prosecution.
U.S. v. Maroun Saade, et al. S1 Indictment