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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)

    San Antonio men sentenced in firearms straw purchase, trafficking investigation

    I.C.E. News Release

    February 8, 2012
    San Antonio, TX

    San Antonio men sentenced in firearms straw purchase, trafficking investigation

    Firearms were destined for Los Zetas drug trafficking organization in Mexico

    SAN ANTONIO, Texas Two San Antonio men have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a firearms straw purchasing and trafficking operation. The sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman; Special Agent in Charge Gary Orchowski, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Houston Division; and Special Agent in Charge Jerry Robinette, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

    Keith Edwards, 23 and Ricky Gonzalez, 22, were sentenced Tuesday to 87 and 42 months, respectively, in U.S. District Court in Del Rio, Texas. They are two of 22 defendants who have pleaded guilty to federal firearms charges in connection with this investigation.

    The other defendants include San Antonio area residents: Marino Castro, Jr., 27; Edward Levar Davis, 33; Jake Lee Cardenas, 22; Ricky Castillo, 23; Ronald Joseph Edwards, 27; Samuel Antonio Escobar, 23; Roxanne Bernal-Guerra, 32; Oralia Naranjo-Ortega, 45; Roxann Marie Rodriguez, 24; Rosendo Rodriguez, Jr., 37; Carlos Veliz, Jr., 23; David Hance-Colon, 25; Brittany Hernandez, 20; Linda Luevanos-Gonzalez, 37; Joanna Elaine Flores, 25; Crystal Marie Adame, 20; Israel Cantu, 31; Maria Montelong-Zavala, 50; Jose Ytuarte, 31; and Antonia Naranjo-Lopez, 46.

    According to court documents, the defendants, under the direction of ringleaders Castro and Davis, conspired to illegally purchase firearms from San Antonio-area firearms dealers. Once retrieved from straw purchasers, Castro and Davis arranged to transport the firearms to a staging location in Eagle Pass, Texas, where they were to be smuggled into Mexico to members of the Los Zetas drug trafficking organization. Between May and August 2010, authorities intercepted five different shipments attributed to this trafficking cell and seized over 200 firearms, including handguns, AK-47 and AR-15-style assault rifles, and one .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifle.

    "People who make false statements in connection with the purchase of firearms need to know two things: first, it is likely that those firearms are being used by those who eventually receive them to commit violent crimes, often against innocent victims; and two, that their role in facilitating the acquisition of firearms by criminals even if that role is being paid a couple of hundred dollars for buying a firearm and passing it off to a middle man will net them a federal prison sentence of up to ten years," stated U.S. Attorney Pitman.

    To date, nine of the defendants have been sentenced to federal prison terms Davis, 14 years; Castillo, 10 years; Edwards, 87 months; Cardenas, 72 months; Linda Gonzalez, 57 months; Ricky Gonzales, 42 months; Colon, 37 months; Ortega, 21 months; and Veliz,12 months. Marino Castro is scheduled to be sentenced at 11:00am on May 21, in Del Rio before U.S. District Judge Alia Moses. Antonia Lopez died of cancer prior to sentencing. Sentencings for the remaining defendants are scheduled throughout February, March and April.

    "This is an example of how federal and state agencies working together can deny the criminal element the tools of their violent trade. Lives were saved by denying the criminals hundreds of firearms," stated Orchowski.

    "One of HSI's top priorities is the dismantling of organizations involved in the smuggling of firearms to Mexican drug cartels," said Robinette. "The collective expertise and authorities of our law enforcement partners during this investigation significantly contributed to preventing hundreds of rifles and handguns from reaching violent criminal organizations and prosecuting those who were responsible."

    This case was jointly investigated by special agents with ATF and HSI, with assistance from the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.

    Assistant U. S. Attorney Benjamin Seal, Western District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

    ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities. For more information, visit U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. To report suspicious activity, call 1-866-347-2423 or complete our tip form.

    U.S. Dept of Homeland Security

    San Antonio men sentenced in firearms straw purchase, trafficking investigation



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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    PARADISE (San Diego)
    Nine Texans sentenced to prison for buying guns for cartel

    Jim Forsyth
    2:42 p.m. CST, February 8, 2012

    SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Nine Texas men and women have been sentenced to prison for purchasing weapons for Mexico's Los Zetas drug cartel, and a dozen others face charges linked to a Department of Justice probe into weapons trafficking, officials said on Wednesday.

    U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman said that in many cases, the Texas purchasers were paid a couple hundred dollars for buying a weapon and handing it to a smuggler, he said.

    "Firearms smugglers employ individuals in the United States with no criminal histories to purchase firearms, often assault-style weapons, and those weapons are then smuggled into Mexico," Pitman told reporters in San Antonio on Wednesday.

    "The consequences of that smuggling can be seen every day in the murders which take place south of the border."

    Los Zetas, which are led by Mexican Army deserters who started as enforcers for Mexico's Gulf Cartel and later branched out on their own, are blamed for much of the violence in Mexico, which is believed to have taken the lives of more than 40,000 Mexicans since President Felipe Calderon began an offensive against the cartels in 2006.

    The 21 people indicted in the scheme are not typical drug gang suspects with violent criminal histories, said Crisanto Perez, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He said most were otherwise law-abiding young adults who were tempted by "easy money."

    There were originally 22 defendants, but one died since she was indicted in connection with the operation, which took place in the summer of 2010, officials said. Eight of the 22 people indicted were young housewives, Perez said.

    "There are people out there from the criminal element who are trying to recruit our young people to be straw purchasers," Perez said. "One hundred dollars to buy a gun for someone is not worth ruining your life."

    One straw purchaser bought one weapon while another bought 20, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Seal.

    The nine men and women sentenced so far have been handed federal prison terms of one to six years. The others face similar sentences if convicted.

    The 203 weapons seized in the operation included handguns, AK-47 and AR-15 style assault rifles, and a .50 caliber sniper rifle. Pitman said all of the weapons were purchased legally from licensed dealers, and that if any of the dealers knew the buyers were buying for cartels, they would be charged.

    "If the dealer doesn't know that this weapon is being purchased for someone else, and they follow the rules, there's not anything we can do about that," Pitman said, adding that many of the gun dealers tipped off investigators to purchases that seemed out of the ordinary.

    Jerry Robinette of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that squeezing off the straw purchasers was an effective way of cutting down on the violence in Mexico.

    "That's where it starts," he said. "If you don't have straw purchasers, you don't have the guns to turn over to smugglers to get them into Mexico."

    Seal said none of the guns in the operation were allowed to enter Mexico so they could be traced to cartel leaders, a tactic that has led to widespread criticism of the Justice Department's actions in the "Fast and Furious" gun-walking sting in Arizona.

    In that operation, which ran from 2009 to 2011, U.S. government agents lost track of many of the weapons. A congressional panel is investigating Operation Fast and Furious, which was the subject of a heated hearing last week.

    Nine Texans sentenced to prison for buying guns for cartel -



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  3. #3
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    May 2005
    Heart of Dixie
    Housewives busted in gun smuggling ring

    • Posted February 8, 2012 at 4:51 p.m.
    SAN ANTONIO —Young housewives and older moms who bought assault rifles from Texas gun dealers are among nearly two dozen charged in an alleged weapons smuggling ring that armed Mexican cartels before the scheme was broken up, federal agents said Wednesday.

    More than 200 weapons, including AK-47s and sniper rifles, were seized and 22 people have been arrested. Many are accused of being so-called "straw buyers" gun shoppers without prior criminal records who legitimately buy from licensed dealers, then hand the weapons to smugglers.

    During a news conference in San Antonio, the Justice Department trumpeted the arrests as a "big hit" in stopping the flow of guns to Mexico. The same agency was left beleaguered following Operation Fast and Furious, in which federal agents in Arizona tried tracking guns suspected of being bought by straw purchasers.

    That operation erupted into controversy when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost track of thousands of weapons, two of which turned up at an Arizona shootout where a Customs and Border Protection agent was killed.

    None of the weapons seized in the South Texas case were tracked, said Crisanto Perez, assistant ATF special agent in charge.

    Federal prosecutors declined to say whether any of the gun dealers who sold the ultimately seized weapons were under investigation.

    Nine defendants have already been sentenced, including two Tuesday in Del Rio. Keith Edwards, 23, and Rick Gonzalez, 22, were sentenced to more than three years in prison each. According to court records, Edwards bought at least three weapons from different federally licensed gun dealers.

    One of the alleged smugglers and ringleaders, Edward Levar Davis, 34, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, longer than any of the other defendants so far. More suspects await sentencing later this month.

    Authorities said the straw buyers arrested include housewives, mothers and cousins. Most were paid around $100 for each purchase, federal agents said. The seized firearms cost between $800 and $1,400, which would make the total value of the weapons caught before reaching Mexico at least $160,000.

    Not all the southbound weapons were intercepted. Perez said ringleaders successfully moved three shipments into Mexico before investigators caught wind of the operation. Perez did not know how many guns were involved. However, by way of comparison, five shipments were involved in the 203 seized weapons announced Wednesday.
    The Gleaner

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