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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Southern District of Texas

For Immediate Release

March 8, 2012

Kenneth Magidson, United States Attorney

Contact: Angela Dodge
(713) 567-9388

Leader of Weapon Smuggling Organization Sent to Federal Prison

VICTORIA, Texas — Saul Salinas Salazar, 26, of Pasadena, Texas, has been sentenced to 84 months in prison for conspiracy to smuggle firearms into Mexico and for making false statements with regards to purchasing firearms, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

At the sentencing hearing late yesterday afternoon in Victoria, Texas, Senior United States District Judge John D. Rainey handed down sentences for Salazar and other members of a weapons smuggling organization, including Jose Santos Maldonado, 27, Tomas Garza, 29, and Carlos Castro Jr., 22, all also of Pasadena, and Rogelio Benito Villarreal III, 23, and David Miranda, 24, both of Houston. Maldonado was sentenced to 21 months in prison, while Garza, Castro, Villarreal and Miranda will serve varying terms of probations for their respective roles in the organization. Cruz Perez III, 23, also of Houston, was reset for sentencing on May 14, 2012.

On July 5, 2011, Salazar pleaded guilty to smuggling firearms into Mexico and making false statements with regard to purchasing a number of firearms. Salazar was responsible for at least seven other individuals who were purchasing firearms for Salazar to smuggle into Mexico for the Zeta Criminal Organization and the Gulf Cartel. From November 2009 to January 2010, Salazar was responsible for the purchase of more than 60 firearms including a DPMS AR–10, .308 caliber rifle that was seized in Matamoros, Mexico, in January 2010. In March 2010, two more weapons purchased by this organization were seized and identified by the Mexican Authorities in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, as used in shootouts with the Mexican Marines and the Los Zetas Drug Cartel, during which 14 people were reported to be killed. The majority of the firearms were AR–15 rifles.

Salazar has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future, while Miranda was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a facility at a later date.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations and the Texas Department of Public Safety. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patricia Hubert Booth.