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BALTIMORE — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in Baltimore; and the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s Mid-Atlantic field office, which is part of the agency’s Office of Inspector General, resulted in a 30-month prison sentence for a Maryland resident for his part in a scheme to smuggle weapons to separatists fighting against the government of Cameroon.

Tamufor Nchumuluh St. Michael, 42, of Rosedale, received the federal prison sentence May 16 in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore for conspiracy and violating the Arms Export Control Act by sending firearms, ammunition and other military-type items from the United States to Nigeria without obtaining a license from the U.S. Department of State.

“Tamufor Nchumuluh St. Michael and his co-conspirators attempted to smuggle weapons of war in order to fuel unrest in the Republic of Cameroon,” said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris. “HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect our nation from those that imperil our national security by illegally exporting firearms to conflict zones and other prohibited destinations.”

According to the investigation, from at least November 2017 until July 19, 2019, St. Michael and his co-defendants conspired to export firearms, ammunition and other military type items from the United States to Nigeria. Between March 2018 and July 2019, St. Michael and his co-conspirators purchased, over the internet and in person, large amounts of firearms, ammunition, firearm parts, ammunition reloading supplies and other military-type items, which were sent to St. Michael’s residence.

St. Michael purchased at least 24 different rifles online, which he picked up at a firearms retailer in Essex, Maryland. In each case, he signed an ATF Firearms Transaction Form certifying that he was the actual transferee or buyer of the firearm. St. Michael knew the certificates were fraudulent, as the firearms were purchased to export overseas.

The investigation further revealed that in December 2018, a shipping container with a 1989 Toyota truck inside was delivered to the street outside St. Michael’s residence. St. Michael and other co-conspirators loaded the container to conceal 38 firearms, including sniper rifles, SKS assault rifles (some with bayonets), other rifles and several handguns. They also hid 44 high-capacity magazines, two rifle scopes and over 35,000 rounds of ammunition in the container. Many of the firearms had obliterated serial numbers. The conspirators concealed the firearms, ammunition, rifle scopes and other items in duffel bags and heavily wrapped packages inside sealed compressor units, placing those items into the shipping container.

The container was sent to the Port of Baltimore for export, departing on Jan. 17, 2019, with a destination of Onne, Nigeria. Co-conspirator Tse Ernst Bangarie caused the electronic export information to be filed with the Department of Commerce, listing the contents of the container as one Toyota Tundra truck, one 1989 Toyota truck, and “doors and frames.” The export information also listed the principal party in interest as an individual with the initials M.A.O. and a nonexistent address. The telephone number listed for M.A.O. corresponded with a prepaid cellular telephone.

According to the investigation, Bangarie knew that much of the electronic export information was false and he intentionally failed to mention the firearms, ammunition and other items hidden in the container.

Approximately one month later, the shipping container was ordered returned to the Port of Baltimore, and on May 20, 2019, law enforcement personnel in Baltimore unsealed it and examined its contents. They recovered 38 firearms and accessories, as well as military-type items such as boots, pepper spray, zip-tie style handcuffs, hydration packs, a camouflage ghillie suit and other items, many of which still bore shipping labels addressed to St. Michael at his residence.

Between June 4 and June 12, 2019, St. Michael, unaware that law enforcement had searched the container, contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) several times seeking information about the container’s status. St. Michael indicated to CBP officers that he was one of five people who had put the shipment together for export and that he had cargo in the container. Eventually he sent an email to a CBP officer, attaching copies of the dock receipt and titles for the two Toyota trucks found in the container.

On July 19, 2019, law enforcement executed a search warrant at St. Michael’s residence. Its basement contained machinery and equipment for manufacturing firearms and reloading of ammunition, as well as rifles, handguns, firearms parts and accessories, a silencer, rifle scopes, powder, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

St. Michael admitted that he and his co-conspirators had intentionally hidden the firearms, ammunition and military items in the container; that he knew the electronic export information was false; that he knew neither he nor his co-conspirators had obtained the necessary licenses or authorizations from the Departments of State or Commerce to export the firearms or military items; and that he knew his actions violated the law.

Seven other members of the conspiracy pleaded guilty to their involvement in the scheme. Two of the co-conspirators received 46-month prison sentences, while two others are awaiting currently await sentencing. In May 2022, a jury convicted three other conspirators for transportation of firearms with obliterated serial numbers and smuggling. Two of those individuals received 63-month prison sentences, while the third currently awaits sentencing.

This investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore, ATF Baltimore, and DCIS Mid-Atlantic with significant contributions from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland; the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement; the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

HSI encourages members of the public with knowledge of any such smuggling activity to contact HSI by calling the HSI tip line at 866-347-2423. The tip line is manned 24 hours a day.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

ICE breaking news HSI Baltimore investigation lands Maryland man in prison for conspiracy to smuggle weapons, munitions to Cameroon Government Agency News