Two women who were caught trying to smuggle cocaine to the United States from Guyana in their hair weaves have been arraigned in New York and while one of them has been released on bail, the other has been remanded with a bail hearing set for today.
The two women are Makeeba Graham and Kiana Howell, both of whom appeared before Judge Vera M Scanlon in the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York on Monday.
Graham was released on US$100,000 bail, with conditions, while Howell, who allegedly confessed that her boyfriend asked her to take the package to the US, for which she would be paid US$7,500, was not.
The complaints against the women, obtained by this newspaper, said that on or about Sunday, Graham arrived at John F Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, from Guyana on board Caribbean Airlines flight, BW 526.
Graham was selected for a Customs and Border Patrol examination, according to Special Agent Jeffrey Fidler, of the US Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations.
Fidler’s deposition said Graham was in possession of one small carry-on bag, was wearing an airline blanket sheet over her torso and had an unusually high bulky hairstyle. “When asked about her trip to Guyana, the defendant became fidgety, surprised and evasive. A bag examination was conducted with negative results. A pat down was then conducted, during which the officer felt a hard object on the defendant’s head,” he said.
“The defendant was asked to remove her hair weave but she stated she could not do so, because the hair was sewn to her natural hair. The defendant was then escorted to the JFK Medical Facility where a portion of the defendant’s hair weave was removed and one round package wrapped with clear plastic and containing a white powdery substance was revealed. The white powdery substance tested positive for cocaine. Makeeba Graham was then placed under arrest,” he added.
The total approximate gross weight of the cocaine found on Graham was 1,046.0 grammes.
‘Not a good thing’
Howell also arrived in the USA on the same flight as Graham and she too was selected for Customs and Border Protection examination.
Fidler, in a separate deposition, said that Howell was in possession of one small green ‘Pacific Coast’ carry-on bag and a purple purse, and was walking alone towards the customs control point to exit. “During the routine questioning, the defendant appeared to be extremely nervous; her carotid artery was pumping, she could not remain still, she would not make eye contact with the CBP officer, and she appeared as if she was going to faint. She also requested to go to the bathroom a few times and was very fidgety. A bag examination was conducted with negative results. A pat-down was then conducted, during which the CBP officer felt an unusual bulge underneath the defendant’s hair weave,” Fidler said.
“When asked what the bulge was, the defendant stated it was part of her hair weave. Pursuant to a partial body search, the defendant was asked to remove her hair weave, but she stated that she could not do so, because she had a package that was sewn into it,” he added.
Fidler noted that Howell also stated that her boyfriend in Guyana told her to bring the package under her hair weave to the United States for him, and that, although she did not know what the package contained, she knew it was not a good thing.
Howell was then escorted to the medical facility at the airport, where a portion of the wig was removed and one rounded package wrapped with clear plastic and containing a white, powdery substance field tested positive for cocaine. She was then arrested.
The total approximate gross weight of the cocaine found on Howell was 996 grammes.
After she was arrested, Howell agreed to waive her Miranda Rights and said that she was told she would be paid US$7,500 to smuggle the package in her hair weave to the USA.
She said she believed the package contained drugs, though she did not know what kind, Fidler added.