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Home  >  Topics  >  Investigations

April 15, 2002
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Boy Says He Carried Drug to Return to Home in U.S.

by Al Baker, The New York Times

The 12-year-old boy who swallowed 87 packages of heroin and flew from Nigeria to London and then to the United States has told investigators he did it because he was homesick and yearned to see his mother, who lives in Georgia. The boy, Prince Nnaedozie Umegbolu, told investigators it was the first time he had risked his life to smuggle drugs.

"It was in him for 58 hours," said Detective Bruce Viania of the Port Authority police, who was on duty at La Guardia Airport early Thursday when the boy showed up sick and bleeding after a cab ride through Brooklyn and Queens. "He said he ingested it in Nigeria. I asked him, `Is this the first time you did this?' and he said, `Yes.' "

The boy was born and raised in the United States, but moved to Abujo, Nigeria, to live with his grandparents three years ago, the authorities said. "Apparently, he got a little homesick," said one law enforcement official.

When he first encountered the police on Wednesday night, the boy was holding a blue sock filled with 44 of the packages, which had passed through his system, the authorities said. The packages were one-inch, egg-shaped pellets wrapped in clear plastic and tape, each holding three to five grams of heroin, the police said. The boy had been promised $19,000 to act as a courier, the police said, and investigators are trying to determine who offered him the money, where he got the drugs and who was meant to receive them in the United States.

The drugs were bound for a contact in New York, the police said. But the boy was unable to locate that person after landing at Kennedy Airport and taking a cab to a nonexistent Brooklyn address. After hours of aimless driving with the boy, the cabdriver, Ronald Manning, saw that he was in pain and took him to the police desk at La Guardia.

The boy told investigators about his father, Chukwunwieke Umegbolu, who was convicted in federal court in 1995 in a case that prosecutors said shut down the largest heroin ring in Georgia, one that had imported $33 million worth of the drug over a decade.

The boy's mother, Alissa Walden, lives in Norcross, Ga., the police said.

The boy, who has been charged with juvenile delinquency possession of a controlled substance, was in stable condition last night at New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens. All of the packages had passed through his system by last night, said a hospital spokesman.

The police said his mother was driving up from Georgia to see him.

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