For Immediate Release
Columbia Man Pleads Guilty to Illegally Exporting Firearms to Ghana
Baltimore, Maryland – Eric Nana Kofi Ampong Coker, age 41, of Columbia, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to the illegal export of firearms.
The 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”).
According to his guilty plea, since 2017 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.
As detailed in the plea agreement, investigators also determined that prior to 2021 Ampong Coker had shipped passenger vehicles to Ghana. In May 2021, federal agents surveilled Ampong Coker as he retrieved firearms purchased from one of the FFLs and was then observed in a variety of locations, including a business that packaged and shipped items from the Port of Baltimore. A shipping vehicle was subsequently seen departing that location on May 27, 2021. On May 29, 2021, Ampong Coker was searched as he was departing the United States from Detroit, Michigan, bound for Ghana. Among other items seized in his luggage were foam cutouts used for packaging and securing firearms in gun cases.
In early June 2021, HSI and CBP agents identified a shipping container scheduled to depart the Port of Baltimore for Tema, Ghana, on June 14, 2021. Included in the listed contents of the container was a 2018 Toyota Corolla registered to Ampong Coker. The list of contents of the container did not include any firearms. On June 8, 2021, HSI, ATF, CBP and other agents searched the contents of the shipping container. Within the trunk of the 2018 Toyota Corolla, which had the Defendant’s name on cardboard on top of the vehicle, the agents found a grey suitcase. Secreted in the lining of the suitcase, the agents found five 9mm handguns previously purchased by Ampong Coker.
Law enforcement authorities identified another shipping container bound for Ghana containing other vehicles associated with Ampong Coker. The vessel on which this container was loaded sailed from the Port of Baltimore in May 2021, was intercepted at sea on June 14, 2021, and returned to Baltimore on August 20, 2021, without having been off-loaded in Ghana or any other port enroute. On August 25, 2021, this container was searched, revealing six 9mm handguns and 16 9mm pistol magazines found in the vehicles associated with Ampong Coker.
Ampong Coker admitted that all of the firearms and magazines were identified on the U.S. Department of Commerce Control List, and he had not obtained the required license or written approval to export the weapons to Ghana.
Ampong Coker faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for illegally exporting firearms. U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher has scheduled sentencing for September 6, 2023, at 2:00 p.m.
U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the ATF, HSI, and CBP for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron also thanked Assistant United States Attorney P. Michael Cunningham, who is prosecuting the case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.