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Press Release

11 Sentenced in Transnational Heroin Trafficking Ring

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – A total of 11 men from the countries of Tanzania, Pakistan and Iran have been ordered to federal prison for their part in trafficking multiple kilograms of heroin to the United States from abroad, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Ali Khatib Haji Hassan, 49, Makame Haji Mwinyi, 49, Ernest Michael Mbwile, 35, Abdulahtif Juma Maalim, 43, Ibrahim Omary Madega, 52, Tiko Emanuel Adam, 41, Iddy Saleme Mfullu, 46, Mohammed Said Mohammed, 48, Daud Michael Vedasto, 58, all from Tanzania, previously pleaded guilty as did Salim Omar Balouch, 36, from Iran, and Abdul Basit Jahangir, 40, from Karachi, Pakistan.

On Aug. 7, 2019, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake completed two days of hearings and ordered them all to federal prison.

Jahangir received a 151-month term of imprisonment. Mfullu and Mohammed both received terms of 50 months, while Hassan, Mwinyi, Mbwile, Maalim, Madega, Adam and Vedasto, were ordered to serve 99, 62, 52, 46, 87, 37 and 46 months, respectively. The court imposed a 135-month sentence for Balouch. Not U.S. citizens, they are all expected to face deportation proceedings following their sentences.

This case began with the arrest of an internal body carrier at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport June 3, 2012. That defendant had swallowed 1.5 kilograms of heroin packaged in 100 pellets.

The investigation eventually led to the charging of 15 defendants, including two Consolidated Priority Organization Targets, one U.S. Treasury Department designated “King Pin” and seizures of approximately 1,600 kilograms of heroin. 

This investigation not only touched the United States, but also Canada, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, South Africa, Tanzania, The Republic of Seychelles, Hong Kong, Australia, Oman, United Kingdom (UK), Italy, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Mozambique, The Netherlands and Saudi Arabia. 

Thirteen have pleaded guilty. Two remain fugitives.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations  (HSI) conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Investigation dubbed Operation Diver Down with assistance from other HSI offices domestic and foreign, Drug Enforcement Administration, South African Police Service, Dubai Police Department, Royal Oman Police, UK National Crime Agency, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Australian Federal Police.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Magness is prosecuting the case.

Updated August 9, 2019

Drug Trafficking