For Immediate Release
Jacksonville Man Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Firearms and Conspiring To Commit Murder-for-Hire
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that Antonio Jose Melean Reyes, 29, of Jacksonville today pleaded guilty to smuggling firearms from the U.S. and conspiracy to use a facility of interstate commerce in the commission of a murder-for-hire. Reyes faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison for each offense. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to his plea agreement, on May 15, 2021, Reyes attempted to smuggle 3 firearms and 57 rounds of ammunition from Jacksonville to Venezuela. Reyes concealed the firearms and ammunition in a futon that he attempted to mail using a freight forwarding service. Employees from the freight service observed the firearms during a routine X-ray of the parcel carrying the futon and contacted law enforcement. On May 22, 2021, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents seized the 3 firearms, which included a Glock 17 pistol and 2 Smith and Wesson M&P 15 rifles. The Glock pistol and one of the Smith and Wesson rifles had obliterated serial numbers. Forensic technicians at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) restored the obliterated serial numbers, which allowed ATF agents to trace the firearms to a subject in Jacksonville. The shipping documents also included Reyes’ phone number and address.
Following Reyes’ arrest on unrelated state charges on Aug. 11, 2023, federal agents from ATF, HSI and U.S. Customs and Border Protection searched Reyes’ cellphone and found conversations between Reyes and another individual discussing trafficking firearms to Venezuela. From Reyes’ phone, agents also learned Reyes and others were involved in a murder-for-hire plot. Between July 12 and Aug. 9, 2023, Reyes and others surveilled two intended victims to murder them based on a $60,000 debt. Reyes and others followed the two victims to various locations around Jacksonville, including outside their home. Reyes attempted to hire a hitman for $15,000, but federal agents prevented any murder from occurring by arresting Reyes on a criminal complaint.
This case was investigated by HSI, ATF and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aakash Singh.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results.