41-yr-old man faces jail for illegally shipping firearms from US to Ghana

A Columbia man has pleaded guilty to illegally shipping firearms out of the US via the Port of Baltimore, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Eric Nana Kofi Ampong Coker, age 41, of Columbia, Maryland, last week pleaded guilty to the illegal export of firearms.

According to his guilty plea, since 2017 Eric Nana Kofi Ampong Coker has purchased at least 81 firearms from three separate Maryland Federal Firearms Licensees (“FFLs”) and in 2019 received Regulated Firearms Collector status through the Maryland State Police, which waived the restriction on the number of firearms he could purchase during a 30-day period.

U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher has scheduled Ampong Coker’s sentencing for 2 p.m. on September 6, 2023, state staff said.

In 2019, he obtained a Regulated Firearms Collector status through the Maryland State Police, which waived the restriction on the number of firearms he could purchase during a 30-day period, state staff said.

During the course of their investigation into the illegal exportation of firearms, investigators learned that, prior to 2021, Coker had a history of shipping vehicles to Ghana, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In May 2021, federal agents surveilled Coker as he retrieved firearms purchased from one of the licensees. They then watched him visit a variety of locations, including a business that packaged and shipped items from the Port of Baltimore, state staff said.

A shipping vehicle was seen leaving the location on May 27, 2021, state staff said.

Two days later, on May 29, 2021, Coker was searched as he was headed to Ghana from Detroit, Michigan. Law enforcement officials seized from his luggage foam cutouts used for packaging and securing firearms in gun cases, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The following month, Homeland Security Investigations officers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents identified a shipping container scheduled to depart the Port of Baltimore for Tema, Ghana, state staff said.

Among the listed contents in the container was a 2018 Toyota Corolla that was registered to Coker. That list did not mention any firearms, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

That month, federal agents searched the contents of the shipping container, state staff said. They found a grey suitcase in the trunk of the Toyota Corolla.

Inside the lining of the suitcase, the agents found five 9-millimeter handguns that had been purchased by Coker, state staff said.

During the course of their investigation, law enforcement officers tracked down another shipping container containing vehicles associated with Coker that was bound for Ghana, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

That container was loaded and shipped from the Port of Baltimore in May 2021, state staff said.

It was intercepted at sea on June 14, 2021, and returned to Baltimore on August 20, 2021, without being off-loaded in Ghana or any other port along the way, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Federal agents searched the container on August 25, 2021, and found six 9-millimeter handguns and 16 9-millimeter pistol magazines in vehicles associated Coker, state staff said.

Coker admitted to investigators that all of the firearms and magazines were identified on the U.S. Department of Commerce Control List, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

He also admitted that he had not obtained the required license or written approval to export the weapons to Ghana, state staff said.

Coker faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for illegally exporting firearms, according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher has scheduled Coker’s sentencing for 2 p.m. on September 6, 2023, state staff said.

Eric Nana Kofi Ampong Coker’s guilty plea was announced by Erek L. Barron, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Toni M. Crosby of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) Baltimore Field Division; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Baltimore; and Stephen Maloney, Director of Field Operations for the Baltimore Field Office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”).

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