Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feds Indicted 34 Suspects In Arizona For Illegal Purchasing Of Weapons And Drug Trafficking For Mexican Cartels

(L-R) United States Attorney Dennis Burke at podium, ATF SAC Bill Newell, ICE SAC Mathew Allen and DEA ASAC Chris Feistl during a press conference in Phoenix. Photos: DEA

Illegally purchased weapons were intended to supply Mexican drug cartels, especially the Sinaloa Cartel headed by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzman Loera.

January 26, 2011

Phoenix, Arizona (HNNUSA) - On Tuesday, in a press release by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona reported that grand juries have returned multi-count indictments in five cases against 34 defendants accused of assisting Mexican drug trafficking organizations with illegally trafficking firearms from the United States to Mexico.
The release said that multi-agency law enforcement task force agency rounded up and arrested 20 defendants named in the 53-count Avila indictment, which was unsealed on Tuesday.  More than 100 officers from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) were involved in the early morning operation that executed the warrants against the suspects.
The Avila indictment alleges that from approximately September 2009 to December of 2010, the defendants conspired to purchase hundreds of firearms, including AK-47s, to be illegally exported to Mexico. Defendants, none of whom are licensed firearms dealers, acted as “straw purchasers” by falsely declaring that they were buying the weapons for themselves. AK-47s are considered the “weapon of choice” for Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
In parallel cases, another 14 people have been charged with gun-trafficking crimes in the District of Arizona under a series of grand jury indictments that have been recently handed down or unsealed.  Defendants in those cases are pending trial.
The indictment states, that at least 700 weapons including assaults rifles and pistols were bought by the suspects and 560 weapons were recovered. Two thirds (372 guns) of the guns were confiscated in Arizona and a third (195 guns) were recovered in various states in Mexico and traced back to where they were purchased in Arizona.
Mexican states and total weapons recovered were, Guerrero 13, Michoacan 1, Jalisco 6, Nayarit 1, Durango 4, Sinaloa 9, Chihuahua 12, Sonora 71, Baja California 74 and Tamaulipas 4.
Most of the guns were purchased from the Lone Wolf Trading Co. in Glendale. One of the suspects, Uriel Patino purchased 230 weapons from the Lone Wolf Trading Co. and nine other guns from another gun shop. Jaime Avila Jr. was named in the indictment as the alleged leader of the organized group of "straw purchasers."
The owners of the Lone Wolf Trading Co. have not been charged, according to the indictments and feds.
Firearms traffickers often use “straw purchasers” to buy guns from licensed dealers.  It is illegal for a purchaser to falsely declare they are buying firearms for themselves when in fact they are obtaining them for someone else.
“Our office is committed to stopping the illegal flow of guns into Mexico,” said Dennis K. Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.  “The massive size of this operation sadly exemplifies the magnitude of the problem - Mexican Drug Lords go shopping for war weapons in Arizona.”
“These indictments are important steps in the Justice Department’s effort to curb gun trafficking along the Southwest Border,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division.  “The Criminal Division is working hard with its partners in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and colleagues in Mexico to find and prosecute those who seek to transport weapons llegally across our borders.”
"This investigation is further proof of the relentless efforts by Mexican drug cartels, especially the Sinaloa Cartel, to illegally acquire large quantities of firearms in Arizona and elsewhere in the U.S. for use in the ongoing Mexican drug war," said Bill Newell, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Phoenix Field Division. This investigation is also further proof that the 'straw purchase' of firearms continues to be a significant problem and that those individuals that knowingly falsify ATF firearms forms in order to supply Mexican drug cartels with firearms have as much blood on their hands as the criminals that use them."
An "indictment indicates that seven individuals allegedly spent approximately $104,251 in cash at various Phoenix area firearms dealers to acquire 140 firearms," said IRS Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Gabriel Grcham.
The OCDETF agencies involved in the joint operation included the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department of Agriculture and the Phoenix Police Department.
The Avila indictment alleges one count of Conspiracy, one count of Dealing in Firearms without a License, one count of Conspiracy to Distribute Marijuana, two counts of Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, one count of Conspiracy to Possess a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Offense, 35 counts of Making a False Statement in Connection with the Acquisition of Firearms, one count of Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering and 11 counts of Money Laundering.
The Flores indictment alleges one count of conspiracy and 17 counts of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.  This indictment includes 8 individuals that made multiple “straw purchases.”
The Broome indictment alleges one count of conspiracy and 13 counts of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.  This indictment includes four defendants that were involved in multiple “straw purchases" involving approximately 58 firearms.
The Aguilar indictment alleges one count of an individual making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.
The Abarca indictment alleges six counts of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.  The indictment alleges the defendant was involved in multiple “straw purchases” involving approximately 13 firearms of which six were AK-47 type weapons.
The suspects are facing between 5 years to 20 years in a federal prison and fines up to $250,000, if convicted.
These cases are being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for Arizona and by Trial Attorney Laura Gwinn of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division's Gang Unit, according to the DEA press release.

Connected by MOTOBLUR™ on T-Mobile

No comments: