Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Tse Ernst Bangarie, age 47, of Hyattsville, Maryland, and co-defendant Edith Ngang, age 57, of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, each to 46 months in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for conspiracy, and for illegally exporting firearms and ammunition from the United States to Nigeria without obtaining the required licenses from the U.S. State Department. According to court documents, the purpose of the conspiracy was to assist separatists fighting against the government of Cameroon. Bangarie was sentenced on April 18, 2023 and Ngang was sentenced yesterday.
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 their plea agreements, from at least November 2017 until July 19, 2019, Bangarie, Ngang and their co-conspirators agreed to export firearms, ammunition and other military-type items in violation of the federal smuggling statute, the Arms Export Control Act and other export laws. Bangarie owned and operated a freight forwarding company in Landover, Maryland and was responsible for arranging for the shipment of the firearms, ammunition and other items in at least one overseas shipping container. Bangarie also referred individuals to co-conspirator Tamufor St. Michael to cut open and then weld shut metal compressors that the conspirators used to conceal many of the firearms in the shipping containers. Bangarie participated in meetings of the conspirators, both online and in person, including in the basement of St. Michael’s residence, where the conspirators also reloaded ammunition, assembled firearms, and wrapped various items for overseas shipment.
Ngang admitted that she also participated in the reloading of ammunition in the basement of St. Michael’s residence in at least August and October 2018. However, the conspirators banned her from coming in person after a video of Ngang loading the ammunition was posted on social media in October 2018, something the conspirators considered a serious security breach. Ngang remained a member of the conspiracy and continued to communicate with St. Michael and others about the ongoing efforts to unlawfully export the firearms, ammunition and other items from the United States.
As detailed in their plea agreements, in December 2018, Ngang provided a shipping container, with a 1989 Toyota truck inside, for the conspirators to use to export the firearms, ammunition and other items. St. Michael and other co-conspirators then loaded the container, secreting weapons, ammunition and other military-type items inside the truck and multiple compressors. The container was sent to the Port of Baltimore for export, departing on January 17, 2019, with a destination of Onne, Nigeria. Bangarie caused the electronic export information (“EEI”) 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 EEI also listed the U.S. Principal Party in Interest as an individual with the initials M.A.O. and a non-existent address. The telephone number listed for M.A.O. corresponded with a pre-paid cellular telephone. Bangarie knew that much of the information on the EEI was false and he intentionally did not include any mention of 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 the container and examined its contents. In addition to the trucks and what appeared to be the contents of an old schoolhouse, the defendants and their co-conspirators had concealed firearms, ammunition, rifle scopes, and other items in duffle bags placed in the trucks and in heavily wrapped packages inside sealed compressor units, in the shipping container. In all, law enforcement recovered from the shipping container 38 firearms, 28 of which had obliterated serial numbers. 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, as well as military-type items, including boots, pepper spray, zip-tie style handcuffs, hydration packs, and other items.
Tamufor St. Michael, age 42, of Rosedale, Maryland and five co-conspirators pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing. A jury convicted three other members for the conspiracy, transportation of firearms with obliterated serial numbers, and smuggling following a jury trial in May, 2022. Judge Bennett has sentenced two of those individuals, Eric Fru Nji and Wilson Nuyila Tita, to 63 months of incarceration and the third, Wilson Che Fonguh, is 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.
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USAO - Maryland;
Department of Defense OIG