Feds: Woman tried to hide heroin in hair weave packages

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Livonia woman was charged in federal court Tuesday after authorities say she tried to import heroin smuggled from Africa to the United States in packages of hair weaves.

Wanda Jean Brown, 60, faces 10 years or more in federal prison if convicted of a drug conspiracy.

Homeland Security Investigations agents, working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, discovered the heroin Monday inside five packages of hair weaves, according to DEA task force Officer Michael Taylor.

“The hair weaves were affixed to cardboard backers as an apparent part of the packaging process,” Taylor wrote in the criminal complaint. “Affixed inside the layers of cardboard were packages of off-white color powder inside a plastic wrapper.”

In all, investigators found 183 grams of heroin worth more than $18,000.

There was no lawyer listed for Brown in court records early Tuesday.

The alleged smuggling attempt is the latest innovation by international drug dealers. In other cases nationwide, smugglers have sewn heroin-filled bags into the abdomen of puppies and stained heroin to look like wood and molded the drug into the shape of a headboard.

DEA spokesman Rich Isaacson declined comment on this case.

“A drug trafficker’s imagination is their limit in how they attempt to smuggle heroin into the United States,” Isaacson told The Detroit News on Tuesday.

The case developed Thursday after a DEA agent stationed in Dubai sent a tip that a suspicious package was en route to Livonia.

The package was mailed from Burundi in East Africa and destined for “Beth Strong,” who lived in an apartment in the 29000 block of Dardanella Street in Livonia, near Seven Mile and Middle Belt.

The package arrived at a FedEx sorting facility in Memphis, Tennessee, Sunday.

Homeland Security agents opened the package and found 133 grams of heroin, according to court records.

Also Sunday, a Homeland Security agent identified a second package mailed to the same apartment from Burundi. The package was addressed to “Jessica Silverdan.” Investigators seized the package.

On Monday, investigators opened the package at a DEA office and found the hair weaves and heroin.

Then, DEA agents hatched a plan to deliver the package Monday afternoon.

As part of the plan, agents wired the package with an electronic beeper that would chirp once someone opened the package.

Taylor, the drug task force officer, dressed up as a UPS delivery man to deliver the package. After arriving in a UPS van, Taylor pressed the buzzer for the apartment.

Brown signed for the package as “Jessica Silverdan,” according to court records.

Taylor left but a DEA agent hid in the hallway. The agent spotted Brown walking to an upstairs apartment, approached her and identified himself.

“Brown immediately dropped the parcel containing the heroin ... and she fled to her apartment on the second floor,” Taylor wrote.

Brown eventually left the apartment and was arrested, according to court records.

During questioning, Brown allegedly said she had received one other parcel a few months ago, according to court records.


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