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Firearms, Ammunition & Explosives

Minnesota man convicted of 18 counts related to international arms smuggling

MINNEAPOLIS — A suburban Minneapolis man was convicted in federal court Monday on numerous counts for smuggling guns to Nigeria and lying on required federal firearms purchase records.

This conviction is the result of a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Sheriff Olaleran Mohammed, 51, a naturalized citizen from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, was convicted on one count of smuggling firearms from the United States and 17 counts of providing false statements during the purchase of a firearm.

"HSI maintains a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to the illegal export of weapons," said Special Agent in Charge J. Michael Netherland of HSI St. Paul. "We are committed to working with our federal law enforcement partners to dismantle and disrupt any illicit scheme involving the illegal exportation of firearms."

"Gun smuggling overseas is a serious offense our office will pursue aggressively," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. "I am pleased with the jury's verdict and with the hard work that led to that verdict."

The investigation began in the fall of 2012 when ATF agents discovered seven handgun purchases were made within days of each other at a gun shop in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities. Investigators discovered Mohammed had made a total of 17 handgun purchases between 2009 and 2012. ATF investigators determined there was a high likelihood Mohammed had lied on at least some of the firearms purchase forms, which are required by U.S. law to legally purchase weapons from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

HSI determined Mohammed was engaged in the international export business and that he frequently traveled to Nigeria, which raised additional questions about the unusual number of purchases.

In December 2012, federal investigators further discovered that Mohammed was shipping a vehicle to Nigeria via ocean container through Valencia, Spain and suspected at least some of the weapons were hidden inside.

HSI special agents in Madrid, working with Spanish authorities, halted the shipment, inspected the vehicle and discovered seven 9 mm handguns and one .22 caliber handgun hidden in the vehicle. The firearms were seized by Spanish authorities, preventing the illegal exportation of those weapons. The weapons were later turned over to U.S. authorities for use in Mohammed's criminal proceedings.

Mohammed was indicted in October 2013 and arrested Nov. 22, 2013 in Atlanta upon his return from Nigeria. His trial began June 11 and concluded Monday.

Mohammed faces a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each count.