For Immediate Release
Owings Mills Man Sentenced to More Than Five Years in Federal Prison for Transporting and Smuggling Firearms and Ammunition From the United States to Assist Separatists Fighting Against the Government of Cameroon
Co-Defendant Eric Fru Nji Was Previously Sentenced to 63 Months in Federal Prison—Others Still Await Their Sentencings
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett today sentenced Wilson Nuyila Tita, age 47, of Owings Mills, Maryland, to 63 months in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for conspiracy, for transporting firearms with obliterated serial numbers, and for smuggling firearms and ammunition from the United States to Nigeria. Tita was convicted of those charges on May 6, 2022, along with co-defendants Eric Fru Nji, age 42, of Fort Washington, Maryland and Wilson Che Fonguh, age 41, of Bowie, Maryland, after a two-week trial.
The sentence was announced by Erek L. Barron, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) Baltimore; Special Agent in Charge Toni M. Crosby of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) Baltimore Field Division; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Dillard of the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (“DCIS”) - Mid-Atlantic Field Office.
According to the evidence presented at trial, from at least November 2017 through July 19, 2019, Tita and his co-defendants conspired with each other and with others to export firearms, ammunition and other military typed items from the United States to Nigeria. Specifically, the evidence at trial established that co-conspirators secreted 38 firearms, 28 of which had the obliterated serial numbers in a shipping container that they sent out of the Port of Baltimore in January of 2019. The guns included sniper rifles, SKS assault rifles (some with bayonets), other rifles and several handguns. There were 44 high-capacity magazines, two rifle scopes and over 35,000 rounds of ammunition. The evidence proved that co-conspirators concealed the firearms, ammunition, rifle scopes, and other items in duffle bags and heavily wrapped packages inside sealed compressor units, placing those items into a shipping container destined for Nigeria. According to trial testimony and court documents, Tita was present for the loading of the container, but that did not load anything himself, because Tita “didn’t like to get his hands dirty.” Instead, Tita gave instructions to the others as they loaded the container.
As detailed in trial testimony, Tita and his co-conspirators contributed funds for the purchase of firearms, ammunition, reloading materials and other equipment for shipping overseas to separatists fighting against the Government of Cameroon. Tita and his co-conspirators communicated about their efforts and plans to ship weapons and ammunitions using an on-line encrypted messaging application and code words in order to conceal their activities. Co-defendant Fonguh and seven defendants charged in related cases are awaiting sentencing.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HSI, the ATF and DCIS for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron recognized the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement; the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their contributions to the investigation. U.S. Attorney Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin, 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/community-outreach.