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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

District of Nevada

For Immediate Release

August 26, 2011

Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney

Contact: Natalie Collins
(702) 388-6508

Mexican National Sentenced to Prison for Unlawfully Purchasing Assault Rifles in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – The last of four men charged and convicted of unlawfully purchasing 37 high-powered assault rifles in Las Vegas for the purpose of selling them in Mexico, was sentenced to prison today, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

Christian Romero, 20, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kent J. Dawson to three years in prison and three years of supervised release for his guilty plea to two counts of illegal acquisition of a firearm.

Christian Romero, his brother, Marcos Romero, 22, their father, Abel Romero, 38, all Mexican nationals who were residing in Las Vegas unlawfully, and a fourth man, Arnold Gutierrez, 24, of Las Vegas, were charged in August 2010 with illegally obtaining assault rifles from federally licensed firearms dealers in Las Vegas. A number of the assault rifles were recovered in the summer of 2010 at a compound in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, which was used by a criminal organization involved in narcotics trafficking.

Marcos and Abel Romero, and Gutierrez, also pleaded guilty to illegally acquiring firearms and were sentenced in July to 40 months, 46 months, and 15 months in prison, respectively.

As this investigation and prosecution reflects, there are individuals who will pay persons to purchase guns for them, said U.S. Attorney Bogden. This practice of using a straw purchaser to obtain guns is illegal, and the guns typically end up in the hands of criminals. We will prosecute the persons who are involved in this sort of illegal activity, and the penalties are severe.

According to the court records, on July 7, 2010, Christian Romero, Abel Romero, and Arnold Gutierrez went to two gun stores in Las Vegas for the purpose of buying firearms. The Romero defendants were prohibited from purchasing firearms in the United States since they were illegal aliens. Abel Romero waited outside in their vehicle, while Christian Romero and Guiterrez entered the store. Christian Romero picked out two assault rifles in each store for Gutierrez to purchase. Prior to purchasing the guns, Gutierrez signed federal paperwork indicating he was the actual purchaser of the firearms, when in fact Gutierrez was acting as a straw purchaser and purchasing the firearms for the Romeros in exchange for cash.

On November 25, 2009, and March 29, 2010, Marcos Romero purchased 14 assault rifles from a federally-licensed firearms dealer in Henderson. Marcos Romero made false statements about his identity, residence and citizenship status in the federal firearms paperwork, and also presented a fraudulent photo identification card.

On eight occasions between January 31, 2009, and April 20, 2010, Arnold Gutierrez purchased 19 firearms, including 18 semi-automatic rifles, two of which were .50-caliber, from a federally-licensed firearms dealer in Henderson, Nevada.

The Romero brothers will no longer illegally traffic firearms to Mexico and provide the tools that perpetuate the violence committed by deadly drug cartels, stated ATF Special Agent in Charge Stephen C. Herkins. This is another victory for ATF and our law enforcement partners in combating violent crime.

The case was investigated by ATF and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip N. Smith, Jr.

The case was brought under DOJ’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative, a nationwide commitment to reduce gun and gang crime in America.