Ring May Use Elderly As Couriers, Feds Say
ATLANTA (AP) _ Federal agents who arrested a 74-year-old woman on heroin smuggling charges are now trying to determine if an international drug ring is using elderly women as couriers.
Adele Akarri, of Lebanon, was arrested at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport after getting off a flight from Beirut to Atlanta, through Zurich and Amsterdam.
″If you saw this lady, obviously, you wouldn’t take her for a heroin courier,″ Dale Schuitema, assistant agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Atlanta office, said Friday.
But DEA officials said she was carrying a brown suitcase in which they found 1.5 pounds of high-quality heroin, stashed in vacuum-packed coffee bags. It was worth an estimated $2.4 million.
″We’re trying to determine the source and the ultimate destination,″ Schuitema said.
A 22-year-old Lebanese man from Boston, Michel Elie Dahrouj, was arrested when he met the woman at the airport. Both were indicted this week by a federal grand jury on four charges of conspiring to import and distribute heroin.
Ms. Akarri’s case is ″unusual in the age of the lady,″ Schuitema said. ″We do not have an organization identified which is using (just) elderly women. ... This is one of the type couriers they are using.″
Schuitema said at least one other elderly woman - although not as old as Ms. Akarri - has been arrested in the United States in a similar case. He declined to elaborate on that case.
Agents with the DEA’s federal, state and local drug task force at Hartsfield, acting on a tip from an informant, arrested Ms. Akarri and Dahrouj Dec. 11 as they tried to leave the terminal.
Ms. Akarri told police that ″she was asked to bring a package for someone else,″ Schuitema said. Her suitcase contained four packets of heroin plus several pairs of men’s pants and one dress.
″She says she didn’t know the contents of the suitcase,″ Schuitema told The Atlanta Journal. ″But why would she come over here with no family, no continuing travel plans, little money and ... a bag with one dress? That indicates she came over for one purpose - and that was to bring the heroin.″
Ms. Akarri’s passport reportedly indicates six previous trips to the United States in the past two years, two each to New York, Boston and Atlanta.
″It’s obvious she’s made other trips in the past,″ Schuitema said.
Ms. Akarri is being held in federal custody without bond; bond has been set for Dahrouj at $10,000. No trial date has been set.