U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Southern District of Texas
For Immediate Release
January 29, 2010
Tim Johnson, United States Attorney
Contact: Angela Dodge
Public Affairs Officer
Ten Starr County Residents Indicted for Lying to Buy Firearms
(MCALLEN, Texas) — A 12-month investigation by special agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has resulted in the indictment of 10 persons accused of lying to buy more than 60 firearms over a five-month period beginning in December 2008, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.
An 18-count indictment, returned by a McAllen grand jury under seal on Jan. 26, 2010, was unsealed today after eight of the 10 persons charged made their initial appearances in federal court. Eight were arrested early this morning by teams of ATF agents, while the ninth was taken into custody this afternoon.
According to allegations in the indictment, the 10 defendants conspired and aided and abetted one another to knowingly make false statements to federally licensed firearm dealers in both McAllen and Roma, Texas, to purchase a variety of semi-automatic pistols and rifles of varying calibers claiming they were purchasing the weapons for themselves when in fact they were purchasing the firearms for another. Jose Alberto Rios, 40, and Josefina Guzman, 34, both of Roma, are alleged to have recruited Juan Antonio Avalos, 23, Jose Angel Celedon, 25, and Siboney Hinojosa Navarro, 32, all of Rio Grande City, Texas; Daisy Yesenia Santo, 22, Jose Alberto Trevino, 40, Roxana Perez, 29, and Eluid Saenz, 23, all of Roma, to act as straw purchasers – to falsely represent themselves on records required to be maintained by federal firearms dealers as the actual purchasers of numerous firearms when they knew that statement was false.
All nine of the defendants taken into custody today have been ordered temporarily held without bond pending a detention hearing to be held on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010. A warrant remains outstanding for the one other alleged recruited straw purchaser, Jeniffer Lopez, 28, of Rio Grande City. Anyone having information regarding the whereabouts of Lopez is asked to contact the ATF at (956)661-7930.
All 10 defendants are accused of conspiracy. A varying number of substantive making false statement charges have been lodged against the defendants individually.
The making, aiding and abetting and conspiring to make false statements which are required to be kept in the records of federally licensed firearms dealers carries a statutory maximum prison term of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000, upon conviction.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Schammel.
The public is reminded that an Indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.