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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Roger B. Handberg , United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Two Arrested for Trying to Send Over 90 Firearms to Drug Cartel Members in Mexico

Tampa, FL –United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces the arrests of Yuendry Rodriguez Hilario (28, Cleveland, OH) and Saleh Yusuf Saleh (24, Cleveland, OH) on a criminal complaint charging conspiracy to transfer firearms to commit a felony and/or drug trafficking crime; possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, illegal transfer of firearms, unlicensed firearm dealing, and conspiracy to violate federal gun laws. If convicted on all counts, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The defendants were arrested in Cleveland, Ohio on March 2, 2023, and both were recently ordered detained pending the outcomes of their cases.

According to the complaint, since 2021 undercover agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), posing as Mexican cartel members, were introduced to Rodriguez Hilario as a trafficker of firearms that could be smuggled into Mexico. Undercover communications with Rodriguez Hilario and others discussed the purchase of AR-15s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. One of the coconspirators described that he sold AR-15s and AK-47s to El Salvadorans and had cocaine available for distribution. Rodriguez Hilario further offered fentanyl to one of the agents to make pills.

Beginning in late-2021, members of the conspiracy sold or arranged for the sale of at least 90 rifles and one Mac-10-type machine gun with a silencer to undercover agents in the Middle District of Florida and Cleveland. In November 2022, an undercover agent told Rodriguez Hilario that his associates in Mexico were “battling and losing” and needed to purchase more firearms. On March 2, 2023, Rodriguez Hilario arranged to deliver 40 AM-15 multi-caliber firearms to the agents. Saleh, who acquired and assembled the parts to make the firearms, arrived at the meeting with Rodriguez Hilario and the agents. After an undercover agent inspected one of the boxes of firearms, both Rodriguez Hilario and Saleh were arrested. In post-arrest interviews with agents, both admitted to trafficking firearms.

A complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in collaboration with the Panama Express Strike Force, an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) comprised of agents and analysts from the United States Coast Guard Investigative Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and U.S. Southern Command's Joint Interagency Task Force South. The Cleveland Division of Police, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, and the Great Lakes Air and Marine Branch of U.S. Customs and Border Protection also provided assistance. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at It is being prosecuted by Dan Baeza.

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