A Minneapolis man was found guilty of international gun smuggling, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Sheriff Olaleran Mohammed, 51, was convicted Monday by a federal jury on one count of smuggling goods from the United States, and 17 counts of giving false statements while purchasing a firearm.
Mohammed – a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Brooklyn Park – attempted to deliver eight handguns to Nigeria by hiding them in a vehicle that was being shipped overseas to the coastal African country, the Department of Justice says.
According to the press release:
In the fall of 2012, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) discovered seven handgun purchases were made within days of each other at a gun shop in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities.
Investigators soon discovered Mohammed had made a total of 17 handgun purchases from 2009-2012, and ATF officials suspected there was a high likelihood Mohammed lied on at least some of the legally required firearms purchase forms.
Agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) then determined Mohammed was engaged in the international export business, and frequently traveled to Nigeria. That raised further questions about the high number of gun purchases.
In December 2012, HSI agents 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 agents contacted Spanish law enforcement officers in Madrid who halted the shipment. There they inspected the vehicle, and discovered eight handguns hidden inside – seven of them 9 mm, and one a .22 caliber. The firearms were seized by Spanish authorities and later turned over to U.S. authorities for use in Mohammed’s criminal proceedings.
He was indicted in October of 2013, and arrested the following month in Atlanta, after returning from Nigeria. His trial began June 11 and ended five days later.
Mohammed faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the 18 counts. His sentencing date has not been scheduled.
FOX 9 has some additional details from the trial.
The station says Mohammed testified he was shipping the guns in order to protect his home in Nigeria. He also claimed to be a captain in the Nigerian Army, FOX 9 reports.
According to the station, prosecutors said there is no evidence the weapons were headed to Boko Haram – the terror group behind the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in April.
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