For Immediate Release
Six South Texas Residents Get Hefty Sentences in Conspiracy to Manufacture Military-Style Grenades
McALLEN, Texas – A total of six individuals have been ordered to federal prison for the illegal receipt, possession and manufacture of destructive devices that were not registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.
Noe Gonzalez, 19, of San Juan, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully transferring destructive devices and one count of making destructive devices that had not been registered in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. Each of the other defendants - Anthony Ozuna, 20, Alfredo Rivera, 24, and Pedro Vega-Genova, 40, all of Edinburg; Celin Javier Montoya-Rodriguez, 23, a lawful permanent resident in Edinburg; and Jonathan Sanchez-Torres, 20, a Mexican undocumented alien who was residing in Pharr - pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawfully transferring destructive devices.
Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Vega-Genova to a term of 240 months in federal prison. Gonzalez was ordered to serve a 196-month-term, while Montoya-Rodriguez, Rivera and Sanchez-Torres will each serve 120 months. Ozuna was ordered to serve 100 months of imprisonment. With the exception of Sanchez-Torres and Montoya-Rodriguez, who are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison, all will also serve three years of supervised release after completion of their sentences.
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) conducted a lengthy investigation which included undercover operations that exposed a conspiracy to manufacture military-style grenades that were intended to be sold and exported to Mexico.
ATF and HSI agents discovered that over a six-month-period, Gonzalez acquired all of the components necessary to construct more than 150 improvised hand grenades, including grenade hulls, spring kits, fuses and black powder, from a combination of online merchants and local stores. He assembled the grenades in a workshop located behind his home. As the grenades were completed, Sanchez-Torres delivered batches of the “live” hand grenades to Vega-Genova for distribution.
Vega-Genova worked with Montoya-Rodriguez, Ozuna and Rivera to sell the grenades. On four separate occasions between Nov. 5, 2016, and Nov. 9, 2016, agents purchased approximately 45 grenades directly from Vega, Montoya-Rodriguez, Ozuna and Rivera at a cost of $400 -$450 per grenade. ATF and HSI agents subsequently conducted surveillance and undercover operations that led to the discovery of the identity and location of the grenade manufacturer - Gonzalez.
Authorities learned that prior to the start of the investigation, the defendants had manufactured and sold approximately 50 grenades to other unknown individuals who were exporting the grenades to Mexico. At the time of his arrest, Gonzalez was in the process of acquiring components to manufacture an additional 200 grenades. Agents were able to intercept some of the component parts that were being shipped to Gonzalez’s residence.
All of the defendants have been in custody since their arrests on Dec. 6, 2016, where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
ATF and HSI conducted the investigation with the assistance of Texas Department of Public Safety, police departments in McAllen and Mission, Customs and Border Protection and Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Paxton is prosecuting the case.