Teen drug mule convicted in JFK smuggling attempt

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A 13-year-old boy who flew into Kennedy Airport from Nigeria with 87 bags of heroin in his stomach was found guilty of felony drug possession by a Queens Family Court judge last week.

Judge Fran Lubow rejected the defense argument that Prince Nnaedozie Umegbolu, a U.S. citizen living in Abuja, Nigeria with his grandparents, was forced to swallow $80,000 worth of drugs at knifepoint in April 2002 in a desperate move to return to America.

“He was a very determined and intelligent young man who wanted to come to this county and this was his means to do so,” Lubow said. “Clearly Prince understood the nature of what he was becoming involved in.”

Umegbolu is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 7 and could face up to 18 months in a juvenile detention center, according to the Corporation Counsel, the city’s law department, which prosecuted the case.

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, and then made a phone call to Nigerian drug lords, who told him to meet a contact at LaGuardia Airport, he 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.

“The members of the Port Authority Police Department and the detective from the NYPD should be credited with putting together a good case while at the same time exercising great concern for Prince’s well-being the night he came to LaGuardia Airport,” said John Queenan, who prosecuted the case.

Umegbolu told police he had agreed to transport the drugs for $1,900 and plane fare back to America. 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.

At Umegbolu’s sentencing hearing, Lubow could impose the 18-month incarceration term in a juvenile facility, which could be extended every year until he turns 18.

The judge could also free the boy by dismissing the charges, ordering a conditional release or giving him two years’ probation.

“This has been a long case with many witnesses, and I am happy to the extent that there was a resolution to the allegations and charges against Prince,” Queenan said. “The case is not over, however, because now we move on to consider the most appropriate disposition for Prince.”

Umegbolu’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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