For Immediate Release
Columbian National Charged with Smuggling Stolen Firearms from Atlanta to Medellin-Based Drug Cartel
ATLANTA - David Andres Perez-Pelaez, a/k/a Andres Zapata has been arraigned on federal charges of unlawfully exporting firearms and fraudulently shipping firearms to Medellin, Colombia, and possessing and disposing of stolen firearms, including a handgun stolen from the Clayton County Police Department. Perez-Pelaez was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 10, 2015.
“Illegal gun trafficking is a major problem in Georgia, but what makes this case even worse is that the defendant is alleged to have shipped stolen guns to Medellin Cartel members in Colombia,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn. “Colombian cartels don’t need more guns to promote their violent activities, and we at home don’t need a market to reward gun thieves for adding dangerous weapons to the drug trade. This defendant is alleged to have done both.”
“This arrest is a result of the collaborative efforts of ATF and our American and International law enforcement partners to protect communities from violent criminal organizations,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Carl Walker. “During the course of this two year investigation, we utilized every available resource to eradicate firearms violence which threatens citizens both domestically and internationally.”
“This investigation and the charges being brought are excellent examples of law enforcement agencies working together to target firearms smuggling around the world,” said Douglas Hassebrock, Director of the Department of Commerce's Office of Export Enforcement.
“The illegal export of firearms from the United States to violent criminal organizations creates significant public safety hazards throughout the world,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin from ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “With this arrest, American and Colombian law enforcement agencies worked together to identify and seal off an alleged source of weapons for these dangerous criminals.”
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: On March 1, 2013, Colombian Direccion de Antinarcoticos (DIRAN) personnel intercepted a package sent from Marietta, Georgia, destined for Medellin, Colombia, at the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, Colombia. The package contained three disassembled firearms—two .40 caliber Glock pistols and a 9mm Taurus pistol—as well as five pistol magazines and a variety of ammunition, all concealed inside a piece of equipment. One of the Glock pistols was stamped as property of the Clayton County, Georgia, Police Department, and had been reported stolen. The other Glock pistol, also reported stolen, traced back to a seller and purchaser in Milledgeville, Georgia. The Taurus pistol had been reported stolen from a gun shop in Marietta, Georgia. The firearms and ammunition were not declared on customs or shipping labels, in violation of both U.S. and Colombian law, and the intended recipient was not a licensed firearm dealer.
Subsequent investigation by American and Colombian authorities revealed that the package had been sent, under the alias “Andres Zapata,” by the defendant, David Andres Perez-Pelaez, and was destined for individuals connected to the La Oficina de Envigado drug cartel, operating out of the Colombian cities of Medellin and Envigado. La Oficina de Envigado is known to be involved in international drug trafficking, extortion, and the collection of payments for criminal organizations in Antioquia, Colombia.
The investigation revealed that Perez-Pelaez started smuggling firearms to Colombia in June 2011, and continued through 2013. Perez-Pelaez hid the firearms and ammunition in everyday objects, such as garage door openers, and shipped them—without a truthful declaration of contents—via the freight carriers to Colombia. The defendant initially acquired these firearms from licensed firearms dealers and gun shows, but eventually started buying stolen firearms from the secondary market, so as to avoid detection. The defendant illegally shipped approximately 15 firearms in total, including 5.56 caliber rifles, 9mm and .40 caliber semiautomatic pistols, and other firearms and ammunition. Perez-Pelaez would receive payment from his Colombian buyers via Western Union, and would make up to $3,500 profit per rifle, and up to $2,000 per pistol.
David Andres Perez-Pelaez, a/k/a Andres Zapata, 30, a Colombian national living in Marietta, Georgia, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Janet F. King on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement, and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from Colombian authorities, including Direccion de Antinarcoticos, and Unidad Nacional de Fiscalias Contra el Terrorismo.
Assistant United States Attorneys Tracia M. King and John S. Ghose are prosecuting the case. For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.