A Nigerian-American man the feds have termed a “witch doctor” was sentenced to 168 months in prison yesterday for his role as spiritual advisor to two East Texas cocaine-trafficking operations.
According to federal prosecutors Christopher Omigie, 58 and a naturalized American citizen residing in Lafayette, Louisiana, offered his services to Texas cocaine kingpins David “Boss” Bazan (not to be confused with Pedro the Lion) and Cesar Barrera. Omigie persuaded the narcos that his “juju,” as it is known in Nigeria, could ensure the safety of their product and operations through his readings, his massages with magic ointments, magic belts and amulets, and his “magic coconuts.” The traffickers would also slash their skin with razors, to which Omigie would apply magic topical powders, and they were also directed to have chats with supernatural stones Omigie gave them.
In order to retain the power of his magic, Omigie ordered the men to abstain from sex and bathing after certain important ceremonies, many of which were illuminated by the glow of flickering Law Stay Away candles.
For his services, Omigie was reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and flown to Africa several times at trafficker expense, the better to renew his powers at their source.
The dealers reportedly consulted Omigie daily, and more intensely around the time their shipments were en route from Mexico, across the Valley and Texas, and as far east as Atlanta. Both Barrera, of Tomball, and Bazan, of Roma (and with reported ties to Gulf Cartel), admitted to authorities that they shipped more than 1,000 kilos before they were caught, and that their operations lasted for the better part of a decade. According to the feds, Barrera’s group had amassed $100 million in seizable assets before the wheels came off the yayo express.
“Mr. Omigie is a Nigerian tribal chief, a title he inherited from his father, and he is a native doctor,” Goins said in an email on Thursday. “The term ‘witch doctor’ is both pejorative and wrong.”
Goins said his client had a “minimal” role in the drug scheme and that his sentence is “greatly out of proportion.”
“While Mr. Omigie was involved in this drug scheme, he was not a major figure in this, and in fact his involvement was extremely limited and minor,” he said.
According to an online bio, Omigie, a nightclub owner and long a promoter of reggae music festivals in his adopted hometown in the Cajun country, is indeed of a royal lineage, one extending back 1,000 years:
In August of 1956, Chris Ena Omigie was born in a small village in Ebelle-Nigeria, Africa, and the son of Chief John Izebulchai Omigie who was Chief of his province. He was reared as a royal son and was awarded the privileges and finery given to any noble person of his country. In 1975, Chris came to the United States to begin his education in Lafayette, Louisiana, He graduated from Nicholls State University and the University of Southwestern Louisiana. In 1990 he married his college sweetheart. After his education, Chris became a naturalized citizen of the United States and worked in the airline and oilfield business. Chief John Izebulchai Omigie (Chief’s father) was from a line of kings dating back to the 11th century, still in existence known as Essonship, in West African Country of Nigeria. In 1998, Chief John Omigie passed on; thereby Chris Omigie took his rightful place as Nigerian Chief of Ebelle Tribe. As of Today, Chief continues to visit his native country on a regular basis, maintaining his leadership as Chief of Ebelle
In 2008, the Nigerian press reported that Omigie and “foreign partners” were making investments “to key into the sports sector of the economy with the hope of leaving a lasting legacy for Nigerian youths.” Three years ago, he announced to a Nigerian reporter that he was launching a radio station in order to generate employment for the “teeming youths that roam the streets in Nigeria.” The same article brought his announcement that “plans were on top gear” for an “ultra-modern hotel” he was constructing at a rural Nigerian crossroads. Which makes you wonder how much time he had left over to replenish his magical powers…
In any event, this melding of drug cartels and African-based religions seems far less malevolent than the Matamoros-based serial-killing drug cult of Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo and Sara Maria Aldrete.
In 1989, they were responsible for the Matamoros spring break kidnapping and murder of UT pre-med student Mark Kilroy. When authorities raided their ranch in rural Tamaulipas, they found fifteen more mutilated bodies. All had been sacrificed to protect drug shipments, thanks to the ever-more-bloodthirsty tenets of Constanzo’s self-created “religion” that combined elements of African faiths transported to his mother’s native Cuba, Haiti (where his mother used to take him as a child), and Mexican brujeria.
None of which preach human sacrifice, but Constanzo was a charismatic and psychotic man and able to persuade his followers, several of whom, both male and female, were also his lovers, that his own, true religion required it.
I was on those same Matamoros streets the night Kilroy was taken, and long before we heard word of his disappearance, my high school buddy Steve told me that some guys had randomly tried to push him into an alley. According to some stories told at the time, Constanzo believed that his altar needed the blood of a blond, blue-eyed gringo, a description that fit both Steve and Kilroy to a tee; he was said to personally point out those he wanted to sacrifice.
Steve was able to break away. (At the same time, I was yards away, kissing for the first time the woman who would become wife 21 years later.) And we’d all felt an evil presence on the streets of Matamoros that night, even before the attempted abduction. It just felt like the whole city had turned, and that something beyond our comprehension had us in its grip and was trying to close its fist.
So there’s something about Chief Omigie and his ceremonies that seem relatively harmless and his sentence overly harsh. Yes, he was allegedly interceding with the great beyond to protect cocaine shipments, but magic coconuts and speaking stones are a far cry from mutilated corpses and abducted innocents, and if Omigie was working a scam on the narcos all along, it seems he at least cared about at least trying to appear to be a philanthropist with the proceeds of his stateside activities in his native land.
(Photos: Lafayettereggaefest.com [Omigie portraits]; Etsy.com [Candle]; Wikipedia.com [Constanzo])