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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Alamdar S. Hamdani, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Thursday, November 16, 2023

Ringleader Sentenced for Illegal Purchases of Firearms Trafficked to Mexico

HOUSTON – A 34-year-old Houston resident and felon has been ordered to federal prison for illegal purchase and trafficking of firearms, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

A federal jury convicted Jose Abraham Nicanor May 11 on all 13 counts as charged following a three-day trial. He was also convicted for possessing a firearm after a previous felony for armed robbery.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt has now ordered Nicanor to serve 60 months in federal prison. At the hearing, the court heard evidence that showed Nicanor aggregated the firearms shipment to Mexico. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Nicanor’s conduct amounted to more than mistakes, but to a pattern of choices to violate the law.

“Stemming the illegal river of firearms into Mexico, a river stained blood red, deprives Mexican cartels of their tools of violence,” said Hamdani. “Cartels and other transnational criminal organizations are a national security threat, and my office, with its fearless prosecutors, will always be committed to aggressively pursuing those who exploit American gun laws so that weapons of war don’t reach violent criminals in Mexico and beyond.”

“Firearms trafficking and straw purchasing are not victimless crimes,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Noel Rangel of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “These acts are illegal and puts firearms in the hands of violent criminals. By focusing on firearms trafficking and straw purchasing, ATF keeps guns out of the hands of criminal trigger pullers, thereby reducing violent crime.”

At trial, the jury heard that Nicanor recruited two straw purchasers to buy high-caliber rifles that drug trafficking organizations regularly seek.

Testimony and evidence showed that a total of 94 firearms were attributable to Nicanor’s straw purchasing group. Mexican authorities later recovered some of the firearms in the possession of drug trafficking organizations.

The jury also heard that Nicanor rented a machine gun at a local gun range and posted a video of himself with the firearm to his social media. As a convicted felon, he is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition per federal law.

Nicanor was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The straw purchasers – James Paxton Jefferson, 34, Alejandro Garcia, 33, both of Houston – previously pleaded guilty and have been sentenced.

ATF conducted the investigation. Mexican authorities also provided assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa Collins and Stuart Tallichet prosecuted the case.

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