Former Maryland Probation Officer Sentenced to over Three Years in Prison for Illegally Exporting Guns And Ammunition to Nigeria
Shipped Weapons Illegally for 10 Years While Employed as a State Probation Officer
Greenbelt, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Emenike Charles Nwankwoala, age 50, of Laurel, Maryland, today to 37 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for exporting arms without a license, exporting controlled goods without a license and delivery of a package containing a gun to a carrier without notifying the carrier of the gun, in connection with a scheme to export guns and ammunition to Nigeria. Judge Messitte also ordered that Nwankwoala forfeit the firearms.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; Special Agent in Charge Theresa R. Stoop of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Baltimore Field Division; Commissioner Alan Bersin of U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and Special Agent in Charge Rick Shimon of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement's Washington Field Office.
“Emenike Charles Nwankwoala illegally shipped guns and ammunition to Nigeria for a decade, concealing the weapons in shipping containers and lying about the contents and destination,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.
“By stopping the illegal export of weapons from the United States, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is preventing weapons from falling into the hands of criminals,” said William Winter, Special Agent in Charge for ICE HSI in Baltimore. “HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to identify, investigate, and prosecute violators who engage in illegal export schemes.”
“This case highlights the tenacious, coordinated effort of federal law enforcement to intercept this cache of weapons and ultimately gain a conviction in this case,” said Rick Shimon, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement’s Washington Field Office. “This is an especially egregious crime given that a criminal justice official entrusted with upholding the law smuggled weapons out of the country.”
According to Nwankwoala’s plea agreement, he was a state probation officer. In February 2008, Nwankwoala applied for and was granted a license to export a 12 gauge shotgun to Nigeria for personal use. In February 2009, Nwankwoala applied for an export license to export shotguns to Nigeria, stating that these weapons were to be used in the operation of a newly-opened range in Nigeria. Because Nwankwoala was unable to provide evidence of this newly-opened range, the U.S. Department of Commerce denied the license.
During six months beginning in December 2008, Nwankwoala purchased at least 37 shotguns from a gun shop located in the Washington, D.C. metro area. On April 21, 2009, Nwankwoala ordered 25 more shotguns over the internet from a licensed company in Ogden, Utah. Nwankwoala stated that he was purchasing these shotguns for hunting in Nigeria, and falsely advised the company that he had an export license.
On May 13, 2009, Nwankwoala told an undercover ICE agent that he had made a large profit in 10 years from purchasing shotguns and shipping them to Nigeria in shipping containers with vehicles and hospital beds. Nwankwoala said he knew that he needed a license to ship the guns, but had not obtained one because he could not identify the end user as required by federal law. The end user was not licensed to receive the weapons.
In July or August 2009, Nwankwoala prepared a shipping container with 24 shotguns, six pistols and ammunition, all concealed in suitcases and a car. Nwankwoala listed his home address on the shipping form for this container, but used the name of another individual and falsely indicated that the container’s contents were “used household goods and personal effects” and a “used auto.” Nwankwoala did not disclose that firearms or ammunition were in the container. Nwankwoala had the container delivered to a ship in Port Elizabeth, in Newark, New Jersey for shipment to Nigeria.
On August 21, 2009, the ship left Port Elizabeth and arrived in Nigeria on September 15, 2009, but the container was not unloaded based upon a request from law enforcement to have the container returned for inspection. On October 6, 2009, United States and Spanish law enforcement inspected the container in Algeciras, Spain, and seized the firearms, ammunition and automobile. Further investigation revealed that Nwankwoala had bought five of the pistols and 12 of the shotguns.
From August 2006 through August 2009, eight other shipments were made to Nigeria in an identical manner.
Nwankwoala did not possess the licenses or authorizations from the Department of State or the Department of Commerce to export the above-listed firearms and ammunition to Nigeria, nor did he possess a federal license to engage in the business of dealing in firearms.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked ICE - Homeland Security Investigations; ATF - Baltimore Field Division; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Washington Office of Export Enforcement for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorneys Christen A. Sproule and Barbara Skalla, who prosecuted the case.