For Immediate Release
Former Soldier Sentenced for Firearm Straw Purchasing Scheme
Firearms Destined for Members of the Gulf Cartel in Mexico
In San Antonio, a federal judge sentenced 37-year-old former U.S. Army Sergeant Julian Prezas of San Antonio, to 200 months in federal prison for his role in a straw purchasing scheme that involved firearms going to the Gulf Cartel announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski, Houston Division, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, San Antonio Division.
In addition to the prison term, Chief United States District Judge Orlando Garcia ordered that Prezas pay a $600 special assessment and be placed on supervised release for a period of 3 years after completing his prison term.
On December 12, 2016, Prezas pleaded guilty to five counts of making a false statement during the purchase of firearms and one count of attempting to export into Mexico defense articles on the U.S. Munitions List without obtaining a license or written authorization. By pleading guilty, Prezas admitted to conspiring with others from April 2015 to August 2015 to illegally purchase over 40 assault rifles. According to court records, Prezas was the actual purchaser of the firearms even though his co-defendants, other former U.S. Army soldiers, falsely indicated on their ATF form 4473 that they were buying the firearms at the time of purchase. Furthermore, Prezas, at times while in uniform and in a government vehicle, admittedly delivered the firearms to multiple individuals, one of whom was delivering them to members of the Gulf Cartel in Mexico.
Earlier this year, Judge Garcia sentenced Prezas’ co-defendants--33-year-old Thomas John Zamudio, 47-year-old Ricardo Esparza Salazar, and 32-year-old Christopher Brown--to two years probation after they pleaded guilty to making a false statement during the acquisition of a firearm.
“It is deeply troubling that a member of the United States military flagrantly violated federal firearms laws, and engaged three other servicemen in a straw purchasing scheme. This defendant was keenly aware that the firearms were destined for the Gulf Cartel in Mexico. While this may be rare, the sentencing sends a clear message that no one is exempt from obeying the law,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski.
“Stopping the flow of weapons illegally exported into Mexico is a top priority for HSI,” said Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, HSI San Antonio. “These weapons often contribute to fueling the violence committed by drug cartels, which drastically affects communities both in Mexico and in the United States. This sentence sends a strong message to weapons traffickers that law enforcement will work aggressively with our federal law enforcement partners to combat this egregious and dangerous criminal activity.”
ATF agents and HSI agents, together with Army Criminal Investigation Command agents, investigated this case. Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Blackwell prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.