For Immediate Release
Haines City Man Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Firearms and Ammunition from the United States to Columbia
Orlando, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Mauricio Arbelaez (42, Haines City) pleaded guilty today to smuggling goods from the United States, possession of an unregistered silencer, and possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number. Arbelaez faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in federal prison. Arbelaez was indicted on March 7, 2014.
According to the plea agreement, between November 19, 2012 and November 26, 2012, Arbelaez shipped three packages to Colombia, using a shipping company in Kissimmee, Florida and a third-party shipping company located in Miami, Florida. The packages contained rounds of ammunition and firearms that were concealed in electronic gaming systems. Arbelaez did not declare these firearms and ammunition to the shipping company when he shipped the packages, or at any time thereafter. On November 28, 2012, one of the packages was intercepted by Colombian customs officials at the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota, Colombia. Once Colombian officials discovered that the package contained a starter revolver and rounds of ammunition, they notified the third-party shipper, in Miami, Florida. After speaking to the Colombian officials, the owner of the Miami shipping company inspected the remaining two packages, which were still awaiting final shipment to Colombia, and discovered ammunition and a firearm with an obliterated serial number inside. The two packages, the firearm, and ammunition were eventually turned over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), which conducted an investigation into Arbelaez. The owner of the Kissimmee shipping company identified Arbelaez as the person who shipped all three packages.
On July 26, 2013, ATF located a safe inside a residence in Orlando, Florida, where Arbelaez stored ammunition, firearms, including a stolen firearm, and a silencer which was not registered to Arbelaez in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew C. Searle.
This is another case prosecuted as a part of the Department of Justice’s “Project Safe Neighborhoods” program - a nationwide, gun-violence reduction strategy. United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III, along with Trevor Velinor, Acting Special Agent in Charge, ATF, is coordinating the Project Safe Neighborhoods effort here in the Middle District of Florida in cooperation with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials. This is another example of ATF’s Frontline Strategy to impact violent crime within our communities.