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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Felix Okafor, Nigerian, Jailed 263 Years In The US For Drugs


The United States Penitentiary in Hazelton, West Virginia is a “high security Penitentiary with a secure female facility and an adjacent minimum security satellite camp, a division of the United States Department of Justice.”
This sprawling prison yard was built in 2004. It is located in Bruceton Mills. It has notorious and famous inmates such as Ali Abdi Mohammed, the Somalian pirate that hijacked civilian yacht Quest and hostages in 2010. He is serving a life sentence.
Inside this prison with a population of 2,283 inmates, is inmate number 56118056. He is Nigerian, Felix Okafor. He was sentenced on April 10, to 263 years in federal prison for drugs and weapons distribution, sales and money laundering.
Felix, 53, migrated to the United States in 1981. He was part of the mass exodus of young Nigerians to foreign nations in the early 80s. Those were the days of uneasy living which drove young Nigerians to seek survival in faraway lands such as United States, Europe, the then USSR, the Scandinavian and Asia, specifically, India. Okafor was one of the young Nigerians privileged to go West in search of exciting challenges. In 1981, he relocated to Raleigh North Carolina and settled into a slow paced southern life style. Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina; a midsised metropolitan city that struggles with diversity. It is home to the Research Triangle Park, a sub research layout that was developed in the mid sixties for world’s biggest research companies in computer science, technology and medicine: RTP, as it is fondly called, is home to the headquarters of Glaxo SmithKline, IBM, CISCO Systems, Ericson, BASF, etc.
This metropolis is also surrounded by America’s best colleges and institutions. One of the colleges it is privileged to host is Shaw University, the first Black College in Southern United States, founded in 1865. Okafor got admitted into this university in the early eighties, majoring in business administration.
After his college education, Okafor created small businesses through his single life passages: the small businesses included Laundromat, vending machines for snacks and sodas. By mid 90s, Okafor married and moved from the city of Raleigh to country town of Zebulon. He also opened a used car sales shop, shuttling between his businesses and family.
Mid millennium, Okafor diversified his business: he purchased a convenience store in another small town, Benson, located along one of the busiest major network road links of United States: route I-95 South. From his new location, Okafor provided neighbours with convenience of daily groceries shopping in his grocery store, Flying Eagles Groceries.
An anonymous resident of the neighbourhood described the store and its owner as ‘always selling us expired groceries and food stuff. He had expired candy bars on the candy racks and that place seemed unorganised and dirty. The aisles were always empty, just few items to pick from. There were candy bars that had expired since 2007. That man was fronting with his store. We suspected he was cooking something else and selling it. He got caught at last.”
The daily human traffic activities of the store attracted neighbourhood curiosity. Strange people came with expensive cars parked outside. These activities inside a store filled with expired candy bars and lousy inventories, attracted strangers to the community at odd hours. Residents became concerned about the safety of their properties, lives and families with the influx of strange people to a small store. Soon, the spectacle attracted federal, state and local authorities who began undercover operations and purchases of drugs from Okafor’s store. He was under surveillance for 10 months and federal undercover operations did drug and weapons transactions directly with Okafor. On Wednesday, January 11, 2011, drug enforcement agents raided his store and arrested him. Narcotic officers conducted 10 ‘undercover drug buys’ of heroin and prescription pills 10 months before the raid. He faced a maximum of 560 years.
He was tried for four days before a jury convicted him on July 12, 2013 of all 53 count charges.
The department of justice wrote thus on the conviction, “United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that on July 12, 2013, FELIX A. OKAFOR, 52, of Wendell, North Carolina, was convicted by a federal jury of 25 drug and firearms offences including conspiracy to distribute 100 grams of heroin and 100 kilograms of marijuana, four counts of distribution of marijuana, six counts of distribution of heroin, distribution of drugs within 1000 feet of a school, and 11 counts of possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.
“During the four-day trial, the government presented evidence that between on or about November 8, 2011, through on or about January 11, 2012, Okafor sold various quantities of marijuana and heroin multiple times to a confidential informant at the defendant’s convenience store, the Flying Eagle, in Benson, North Carolina. Okafor possessed a gun in his pocket during each of these transactions. Additionally, the defendant used the Flying Eagle to cut and package the drugs to sell. The store was within 1000 feet of Benson Middle School. Okafor faces a minimum of 265 years and a maximum of 560 years imprisonment at sentencing.
“This case was part of the Project Safe Neighbourhoods (PSN) initiative which encourages federal, state, and local agencies to cooperate in a unified “team effort” against gun crime, targeting repeat offenders who continually plague their communities.
“Investigation of this case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Ethan A. Ontjes prosecuted the case.”
Nine months after he was convicted, Okafor was sentenced to 263 years of prison on April 10.
“U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard handed down 53-year-old Felix A. Okafor’s 3,157-month sentence in a Greenville federal courtroom. A jury convicted Okafor of selling drugs during a four-day trial last July.
Jurors found Okafor guilty of selling heroin and marijuana to a confidential informant at his Benson convenience store, the Flying Eagle, which is within 1,000 feet of Benson Middle School. Prosecutors said Okafor used his store to cut and package the drugs.
Okafor was convicted of 25 drug and gun charges, including 11 counts of possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, six counts of distribution of heroin and four counts of distribution of marijuana.
Prosecutors said Okafor had a gun in his pocket each time he sold drugs to the informant.”
He was immediately moved to the United States Penitentiary in West Virginia. He came to the United States as a 20-year-old determined young man in search of best life’s fulfilment for his family. Thirty three years later, at 53 years, he was sentenced to 263 years in prison.


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