U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Southern District of Texas
For Immediate Release
March 27, 2009
Tim Johnson, Acting United States Attorney
Contact: Angela Dodge, Public Affairs Specialist
Firearms Trafficker Sentenced
(HOUSTON) — Juan Pablo Gutierrez, 25, of Houston, has been sentenced after pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Gray Miller to eight counts involving the offense of making a false material statement to a federal firearms licensee in connection with the purchase of a firearm, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Judge Miller sentenced Gutierrez to 46 months in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and three years of supervised release thereafter on each of the eight counts, to run concurrently, and assessed a $7,500 fine.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) began an investigation into the defendant after a routine regulatory inspection of a local firearms dealers’ records showed the cash purchases of a large number of military-style firearms. Between October and November of 2006, Gutierrez was responsible for buying 28 firearms for approximately $21,000 in cash. The firearms he purchased included 10 Bushmaster-brand .223 caliber semi-automatic assault rifles, which were essentially identical in appearance to the M-16 rifle used by the United States military. The other weapons he bought were also of military style and utility, including some firearms chambered in 5.7 x 28mm ammunition, which is a round reputed to defeat certain body armor and therefore known in Mexican drug trafficking circles as “mata policias” or “police killers.”
Gutierrez violated federal law by making false statements on the ATF forms, which he was required to fill out before buying the firearms, to the effect that he was not buying them on behalf of another person when he truly was. Federal law prohibits one person from purchasing firearms on another’s behalf except as a bona fide gift, which these firearms were clearly not.
In fact, Gutierrez intended all along to traffic in firearms, which is evident from what the United States has learned from its Mexican law enforcement counterparts. To date, many of these firearms have been recovered in Mexico according to Mexican press accounts and information provided by Mexican law enforcement. On Feb. 20, 2008, the Mexican army detained eight suspected members of the Arellano Felix drug trafficking group in Juarez, Mexico, in possession of a Beretta, Model M9, 9mm pistol purchased by Gutierriez. On Dec. 9, 2007, Mexican law enforcement authorities detained 11 suspected “Zetas,” a drug trafficking group notorious for violence, in possession of six grenades, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and multiple other weapons, including a Bushmaster semi-automatic assault rifle Gutierrez had purchased. On July 14, 2007, Mexican law enforcement detained two people in the State of Campeche who were in possession of multiple firearms, including a Beretta, Model M9, 9mm pistol purchased by Gutierrez. On June 6, 2007, the Mexican army and Federal Preventative Police recovered 21 grenades, more than 6,000 live rounds of ammunition and multiple firearms from an overturned truck in the State of Veracruz, including a Beretta, Model M9, 9mm pistol and a Bushmaster, Model XM-15, .223 caliber rifle Gutierrez had purchased. On April 17, 2007, Mexican authorities detained 20 suspected kidnappers and drug traffickers, including a person purported to be an original member of the “Zetas” drug trafficking organization, who together possessed an arsenal of 24 rifles, nine handguns, three grenades and 2,000 rounds of ammunition, including a Bushmaster, Model XM-15, .223 caliber assault rifle purchased by Gutierrez.
Gutierrez’s prosecution represents an effort on the part of United States law enforcement to stem the flow of firearms from Texas and other states into Mexico where firearms of American origin are arming the drug trafficking organization henchmen who daily threaten and attack Mexican military, law enforcement and civilians with equal impunity and ruthlessness.
This matter was investigated by ATF and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark W. White III.