A Loudoun County jury on April 30 found a Ghana man guilty of drug-related charges after he was caught at Dulles Airport with nearly three pounds of heroin in the lining of his stomach.
The jury recommended Sulemana Ali serve 15 years in prison for charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin and transporting a controlled substance into the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jason A. Faw presented evidence over the course of the two-day jury trial.
On March 29, 2012, Ali landed at Dulles International Airport on a commercial flight from Accra, Ghana. Ali was in possession of fraudulent travel documents and was posing as the son of an older man who was traveling with him, according to Heather Williamson, spokesperson for the Loudoun Commonwealth Attorney's Office. While passing through customs, Ali was stopped for secondary screening by Department of Homeland Security officials.
During the secondary pat-down search, officials saw that Ali’s stomach and midsection was rigid. Ali was taken by law enforcement to the hospital, where x-rays showed multiple foreign objects inside his stomach. The objects were later determined to be 87 pellets containing an excess of 1,100 grams (approximately 2.43 pounds) of heroin.
“This type of case is relatively unique for a state prosecution,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman in a prepared statement. “However, with a major international airport in the County, it’s a situation that has become increasingly familiar. We’re fortunate to have built strong working relationships with our federal law enforcement partners in maximizing accountability in these situations.”
During a subsequent interview with law enforcement, Ali admitted to swallowing pellets of heroin for transportation into the United States. Ali also said that the older man traveling with him was not his father, but in fact someone he paid to accompany him to the United States. The older man traveling with Ali was denied entry to the United States and returned to Ghana.
Ali will be sentenced at 10 a.m. Aug. 21 in Loudoun County Circuit Court. Under Virginia law a judge may reduce a jury’s recommendation, but may not increase a jury’s recommendation.