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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Eastern District of California

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Benjamin B. Wagner, United States Attorney

Contact: Lauren Horwood, Public Information Officer
(916) 554-2706

Arrests Announced of International Firearms Trafficking Ring Members

FRESNO, Calif. — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that on November 3, 2011, a grand jury returned an indictment charging seven individuals with various federal firearms offenses. The indictment was unsealed today.

The 16–count indictment charges Ernesto Salgado–Guzman, 44; Demetrio Sebastian Cortez–Ordaz, 44; Zeferina Salgado de Cortez, 40; Demtrio Cortez–Ordaz, 33; Modesto Santiago–Sanchez, 72; Victorino Epifanio Bazante Pacheco, 75; and Florencio Solanes–Morales, 69, all of Madera. Zeferina Salgado Guzman de Cortez and Florencio Morales–Solano were arrested late yesterday on federal arrest warrants. The remaining defendants are being sought by federal agents.

In a related action, Gregorio Salgado–Lopez, 33, of Madera, was arrested on an international Provisional Arrest Warrant, requested by the government of Mexico, for the purpose of detaining him pending extradition proceedings from the U.S. to Mexico to face Mexican gun smuggling charges.

According to the indictment, the defendants conspired to buy and sell firearms without a license and presented false information during firearms transactions. The indictment charges that between 2006 and June 22, 2009, the defendants purchased more than 400 .22–caliber rifles at a store in Madera, to be sold in Mexico. The indictment also charges Demetrio Cortez–Ordaz with exporting firearms to Mexico in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. The indictment also alleges that more than 50 of the firearms were recovered in Mexico when Gregorio Salgado–Lopez was found in possession of the firearms while on a bus bound for Oaxaca, Mexico on March 22, 2009.

This case is the product of an extensive investigation spanning more than two years by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and various Mexican law enforcement agencies. The investigation commenced in 2009 based on information provided by Mexican authorities following the arrest of Gregorio Salgado–Lopez in Mexico in March 2009.

The transportation of American firearms to Mexico contributes to violence south of the U.S. border which threatens the safety of people in both countries, said U.S. Attorney Wagner. We have worked closely with Mexican law enforcement authorities in the course of this investigation, which began with information provided by Mexican authorities following a seizure of illegal weapons in Mexico in 2009. The U.S. Attorney’s Office thanks Mexican authorities for their assistance and close coordination in this case. We will continue to collaborate with our Mexican partners to stanch the illegal flow of guns from this country to Mexico.

The danger to our communities is minimized when ATF works in concert with our law enforcement partners and we jointly leverage our areas of expertise, said Stephen C. Herkins, Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Division of ATF. Today’s arrests demonstrate the great results that can be achieved through our close cooperation with our Mexican counterparts.

The federal regulations involving the sale and export of firearms are designed to ensure that guns and other weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands and put people at risk, said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in northern California. As this case makes clear, we are allied in our effort to target those who seek to profit by circumventing these laws without regard for the public’s safety.

The United States Marshals Service joined in this cooperative effort, bringing our fugitive apprehension capabilities to support the ATF, ICE and Mexican Government authorities in locating and arresting defendants wanted both by U.S. Federal courts and by Mexican federal authorities on a variety of weapons related charges, said Albert Najera, U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of California. Task force officers from the Marshals Service have specific skills, abilities and local knowledge to assist our federal law enforcement partners in this important and unique investigation.

The defendants are expected to make their initial appearances before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Fresno today.

If convicted, Ernesto Salgado–Guzman and Demetrio Sebastian Cortez–Ordaz face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine; Demetrio Cortez–Ordaz faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine; Zeferina Salgado Guzman de Cortez faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine; Modesto Santiago–Sanchez and Victorino Epifanio Bazante Pacheco face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine; and the maximum sentence for Florencio Morales–Solano is 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

The charges are only allegations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.