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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Tara K. McGrath, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Friday, April 19, 2024

Drug and Ghost Gun Trafficker Sentenced to 87 Months

SAN DIEGO – Carlos Mendoza of San Diego was sentenced in federal court today to 87 months in prison following his admission that he trafficked in methamphetamine and ghost guns.

Mendoza pleaded guilty to selling methamphetamine to undercover federal agents in February of 2023. According to the plea agreement, Mendoza also admitted to illegally selling eight privately-made firearms, which are commonly referred to as “ghost guns.” Ghost guns are assembled from firearm parts and lack markings—or contain non-standard markings—which make them difficult to trace when recovered from a crime scene.

Mendoza’s arrest was part of the Privately Made Firearm Crime Reduction Project, which ran from February to May of 2023. The project was initiated to address gun violence and the proliferation of ghost guns in San Diego. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) used data analytics to determine areas where there was an increase in gun violence and where crime guns were being recovered. ATF and SDPD employed an intelligence-led policing effort throughout the 90-day initiative to determine where to place resources to have the greatest impact. The project resulted in the seizure of 165 ghost guns and the prosecution of 33 people, including Mendoza.

“Removing dangerous drugs and illegal guns from the street makes all of us safer,” said U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath. “Now we’ve removed a dealer from the equation, too.”

“Individuals who are engaged in the business of making firearms for livelihood or profit as opposed to personal use, must obtain a federal firearms license, and must comply with federal laws that require firearms to be serialized,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Bombardiere. “ATF will continue to investigate criminal possession of ghost guns and those who traffick them with its local partners to make our communities safer.”

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Shital H. Thakkar.

DEFENDANT           Case Number 23-cr-01436-RBM

Carlos Mendoza          Age: 31                San Diego, CA


Distributing Methamphetamine – Title 21, U.S.C., Section 841(a)(1)

Maximum penalty: Life in prison and $10 million fine


Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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