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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Southern District of Texas

For Immediate Release

November 8, 2011

Kenneth Magidson, United States Attorney

Contact: Angela Dodge, Public Affairs Officer
(713) 567-9388

Smuggling Assault Rifles Lands Three in Federal Prison

LAREDO, Texas — Three men have been sentenced to federal prison following their convictions for conspiring to smuggle assault rifles into Mexico, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana handed down the sentences approximately an hour ago in Laredo federal court.

Miguel Ramos-Ramos, 37, and Rafael Antonio Garza–Martinez, 48, two Mexican truck drivers living in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, each received 12 months and one day for their roles in the conspiracy to smuggle four AR–15 assault rifles. Ramos–Ramos hired Garza–Martinez and also acted as a look–out. Federal undercover agents posed as firearms traffickers and met with Garza–Martinez in Laredo on June 10, 2011. The agents then provided Garza–Martinez an unloaded AR–15 assault rifle wrapped in a towel and three rifle cases which, unbeknownst to him, were empty. The men were arrested immediately thereafter. In handing down the sentences today, Judge Saldana noted that although the truck drivers could be considered low level workers, they were still important members of the trafficking organization.

Another member of the conspiracy, Juan Antonio Villatoro, 24, of Laredo, was also sentenced today. Villatoro received a sentence of 36 months for obtaining more than $38,000 in one day to purchase firearms to be smuggled into Mexico and for recruiting various straw purchasers of firearms. Federal law requires purchasers of firearms to certify in writing that the firearm is not being purchased for someone else. Persons who buy firearms for others, but certify otherwise, are known as straw purchasers.

All three pleaded guilty on Aug. 15, 2011. The defendants have been in custody following their arrests where they will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Following their release from prison, all four men will serve a three–year–term of supervised release.

The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement–Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection. Assistant United States Attorney Homero Ramirez prosecuted the case.