BALTIMORE – An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore; the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) Mid-Atlantic; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Baltimore landed a Maryland man in prison for illegally exporting firearms to Ghana. Eric Nana Kofi Ampong Coker, 41, of Columbia received a sentence of 30 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Sep. 6.
“Through his actions, Eric Nana Kofi Ampong Coker displayed a malicious disregard for human life and American laws,” said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris. “His weapons smuggling scheme put the safety of countless Ghanaian citizens at risk. HSI Baltimore will continue to detect and disrupt such criminal actions that endanger the lives of the public.”
According to the investigation, since 2017 Ampong Coker has purchased at least 81 firearms from three separate Maryland Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL). Ampong Coker received Regulated Firearms Collector status through the Maryland State Police in 2019, which waived the restriction on the number of firearms he could purchase during a 30-day period. Investigators further 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 at 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. Agents seized foam cutouts used for packaging and securing firearms in gun cases from his luggage.
HSI and CBP agents identified a shipping container scheduled to depart the Port of Baltimore for Tema, Ghana, in June 2021. The listed contents of the container included a 2018 Toyota Corolla registered to Ampong Coker but did not include any firearms. HSI, ATF, DCIS, CBP and other agents searched the contents of the shipping container. Inside the trunk of the 2018 Toyota Corolla, the agents found a grey suitcase with five 9mm handguns previously purchased by Ampong Coker concealed in the lining of the suitcase.
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 was intercepted at sea in June 2021 and returned to the Port of Baltimore. In August 2021, authorities searched the container and discovered six 9mm handguns and 16 9mm pistol magazines in the vehicles associated with Ampong Coker.
During the investigation, Ampong Coker admitted that he purchased all the firearms and magazines that were identified on the U.S. Department of Commerce Control List. He further admitted that he had not obtained the required license or written approval to export the weapons to Ghana.
HSI Baltimore, ATF Baltimore, DCIS Mid-Atlantic, and CBP Baltimore conducted this joint investigation with significant assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
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.