“Orange is the New Black” writer Piper Kerman has become a celebrity for getting involved in a heroin-smuggling conspiracy in her early 20s, and it turns out the guy allegedly behind that conspiracy is still at large.
The Chicago Tribune recently pointed out that the federal case involving Kerman — whose book inspired the hit Netflix show — is still wide open. That case dates back to 1994, and most of the 14 defendants were convicted long ago.
But the alleged kingpin, a man named Buruji Kashamu, has evaded U.S. authorities. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago refused to drop the indictment against him in 2011, but he’s been safe in Nigeria for years.
The Tribune notes that the case against Kashamu been particularly frustrating for prosecutors in Chicago because he was arrested in England in 1998 and held for five years. But British authorities reportedly refused to extradite him back to the U.S. after finding the eyewitness identification of him was weak. He returned to Nigeria, where he’s reportedly been active in the country’s politics.
Kerman signed a plea agreement for her relatively minor role in Kashamu’s alleged conspiracy, and she ended up serving 11 months in federal person. Her role involved transporting $50,000 in drug money from the U.S. to Europe for her girlfriend, who had a bigger role in the alleged heroin-smuggling conspiracy.
Although Kerman pleaded guilty to her crime in 1998, her ordeal was dragged out because feds wanted her to testify against Kashamu in “street clothes, not an orange jumpsuit,” Kerman wrote in Marie Claire. Thus for five years, she had to live her life with the prospect of prison hanging over her head.
It was only after Britain finally released him in 2003 that she could finally start doing her time — and getting some inspiration for her best-selling memoir.
For his part, Kashamu claims that the government is fingering the wrong guy and that he’s not in fact the drug kingpin known as “Alajj,” according to the Tribune. Alajj was, in fact, his dead brother, Kashamu says. The U.S. is still apparently trying to have Kashamu extradited from Nigeria, though.
“We’re still trying to figure out ways we can fix this for Buruji,” his Chicago lawyer, Scott Frankel, told the Tribune. “They’re trying to bring this guy back and then have a bunch of people who haven’t seen him in years testify that he’s the guy.”