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Teen drug mule sentenced to probation

A 13-year-old boy who was found guilty of flying into Kennedy Airport from Nigeria with 87 bags of heroin in his stomach was released into the custody of his defense attorney and ordered to serve a two-year probation period in a juvenile treatment facility in Georgia.

Queens Family Court Judge Fran Lubow sentenced Prince Nnaedozie Umegbolu, 13, last Thursday after he was found guilty of felony drug possession in December.

Umegbolu was placed on probation for two years, during which he will stay at a 220-acre ranch for troubled boys in Georgia, not far from his mother, who lives in suburban Atlanta, according to a release from the Corporation Counsel, which prosecuted the case. The local Department of Probation will monitor his behavior and make periodic reports to Queens Family Court.

Umegbolu, a U.S. citizen living in Abuja, Nigeria with his grandparents, said he was forced to swallow $80,000 worth of drugs at knifepoint in April last year in a desperate move to return to America.

Umegbolu was arrested at LaGuardia Airport in April after he complained of stomach pains and began passing the drug packets wrapped in cellophane and sealed with tape as he searched for the contact he was supposed to meet.

The boy was 12 when he arrived alone at Kennedy Airport April 10 after a 16-1/2-hour flight from Nigeria, with a stop in London. Umegbolu took a taxi to a nonexistent Brooklyn address. He then made a phone call to Nigerian drug lords, who told him to meet a contact at LaGuardia Airport, the boy told Port Authority police at the time of his arrest.

On the way to LaGuardia, Umegbolu began to feel ill and started passing the cellophane packets. The cab driver took him to the Port Authority Police headquarters at LaGuardia, where he was arrested and taken to the hospital.

Umegbolu told police he had agreed to transport the drugs for $1,900 and plane fare back to the United States. He said he was trying to return to his mother, who lives in Georgia.

The boy has been held in an Administration for Children's Services facility since his arrest.

Lubow could have sentenced Umegbolu to an 18-month incarceration term in a juvenile correctional facility, freed the boy by dismissing the charges or ordered a conditional release.

Prosecutors had urged Lubow to sentence Umegbolu to a facility in New York because the Georgia site was not prepared to cooperate with the local probation authorities on his treatment as required by the New York court, the Corporation Counsel said.

"The court clearly considered the dispositional alternatives available and reasonable minds could differ about what the proper result should be," said prosecutor John Queenan, senior counsel for the Family Court Division.

"At the end of the day, we simply reached a different conclusion as to what the least restrictive dispositional alternative was, based upon Prince's circumstances, his needs and the need for the community's safety," Queenan said. "We hope that Prince abides by the conditions set by the court and successfully completes his probation."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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