Why I am not horrified by the TSA search
(We've now had more that 24 hours of delighted, hour-topping broadcast outrage over a little girl getting a secondary pat-down in an airport. Perhaps if these drama school drop-outs had spent a little time in the trenches before they became anchorpeople, they'd have covered a few stories like this one. In which, I would note in hindsight, it appears that the chief investigator and I were having a contest to see who could be more dry.)
Press-Republican, Plattsburgh NY
Wednesday, March 18, 1992
By Mike Peterson
ROUSES POINT - An arrest at Champlain last week led to the disruption of a smuggling ring that encompassed three continents and a half-dozen countries, as U.S. Customs inspectors and the New York State Police combined to foil the importation of a shipment of nearly pure heroin.
The initial arrest came March 11, when Alex Afful, 34, a citizen of Ghana living in Montreal, attempted to cross the border at Champlain with his three-year-old daughter According to Customs Service Special Agent in Charge John O’Hara, a routine computer check turned up Afful's name as a possible drug smuggler, and he was brought over to the customs shed for a secondary inspection
There, a customs inspector discovered a stuffed toy dinosaur that had been re-sewed on one seam, which he then inspected more closely and finally opened, revealing heroin in the form of 89 hard-packed, tape-wrapped cylinders the thickness of a thumb, which had been put into condoms and tied off with dental floss. A search of the child turned up 10 more condoms of heroin, secreted in her snow boots.
When the drugs were found on his daughter, Afful confessed that he was bringing the heroin into the country, and that he had previously carried the drug into Canada from Ghana by ingesting 101 condoms of the drug, which had originated in Thailand.
By the time it arrived in Montreal, the drug had passed through Afful’s system and he was reluctant to re-swallow the condoms for the trip to New York City He was reluctant to do so, drug investigators said, because he had been sick the first time and the prospect was less appetizing on this leg of the journey.
Accordingly, he devised the alternate stratagem of using the toy and the child's boots.
Customs officers and troopers, realizing they had only 99 of Afful's reported 101 condoms of the drug, took him to CVPH Medical Center, where he was inspected by physicians who found no solid indication of more condoms. However, after enemas, Afful passed an additional condom.
After further observation, it was decided that no more remained, and he was taken from the hospital.
Afful’s daughter was returned to the custody of her mother in Montreal.
Faced with the realities of his situation. Afful was persuaded to cooperate with authorities and called his contact in New York City, offering a police-provided false explanation for the delay of several days in his scheduled arrival. He was told to drive to Albany, where he met with Toure Daboya, 20, and Lakazo Ouro-Adohi, 22, citizens of Togo living in the Bronx. The two Togoans were arrested and. in turn, led officials to Judith Adarikor, a citizen of Ghana living in Yonkers, who was described as a central figure in the West African drug-smuggling ring.
A search of Adarikor's residence turned up more drugs, as well as between $15,000 and $20,000 in cash She was arrested Monday night.
All four face federal charges of possession of heroin, O'Hara said State charges may also be brought, he said, unless the strength and severity of the federal charges suggest that state prosecution would be superfluous.
O'Hara described the border arrest as a combination of good investigative work and good fortune, since it would have been extremely difficult to intercept Afful once he cleared the border and reached New York City, his original destination
Officials set the value of the heroin, which would have been diluted eight to 10 times to reach the appropriate potency for street use, at $1 million. Afful was paid $5,000 when he picked up the drug in London and was to have been paid an additional $5,000 upon delivery. A good monthly wage in Ghana is $50, O’Hara said.
While Afful faces up to 40 years in prison, his arrest and subsequent trip to CVPH may have saved his life.
"When they removed that last condom from him, it had started to rupture," O'Hara said. "The dental floss was gone and the condom was starting to go."
Had that happened even at the hospital, chances of saving the man were slim, O'Hara said. "We estimate this stuff is about 90-percent pure; he probably wouldn't have lasted more than a minute," O'Hara said. "Apparently, he didn't know the danger of it, or didn't think it was that significant. We were concerned about his health, but then again, too, we wouldn't have been able to make the convoy (to Albany) if he were dead.”