LAREDO, Texas – Two Mexican nationals were sentenced to prison Monday for their roles in attempting to smuggle 652 assault rifle magazines into Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney, Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Julio Cesar Flores-Martinez, 47, and Francisco Padilla-Perez, 41, both Mexican nationals living in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, were sentenced Feb. 25 by visiting U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison to 46 and 50 months respectively. As illegal aliens, both are expected to face deportation proceedings following their release from prison. In sentencing the pair, Judge Ellison commented that "both of these defendants have caused me great unease."
According to court documents, in April 2012, HSI and ATF conducted an undercover operation in which they posed as assault rifle magazine dealers willing to sell the items for illegal export into Mexico. Padilla-Perez contacted the agents and placed his order for 650 high-capacity AK-47 assault rifle magazines, stating that he wanted to smuggle them into Mexico and agreeing to pay $19,500 in cash. On April 19, 2012, he met with the undercover agents at a parking lot in Laredo. He showed them the money and told the agents he had already secured a Mexican truck driver who was going to smuggle the magazines into Mexico in a semi-tractor. Flores-Martinez, the Mexican truck driver, had arrived at the same parking lot at Padilla-Perez's request and was waiting for the hand-off.
Padilla-Perez inspected the contents of nine suitcases brought by the agents, which were packed with the 652 magazines. He and the agents then walked over to Flores-Martinez, who received the suitcases and hid them in the cab of his semi-tractor. Padilla-Perez handed the undercover agents a white plastic bag containing $19,500 cash. Flores-Martinez ultimately drove to one of the international bridges in Laredo where the items were discovered, and he was subsequently arrested.
At sentencing Monday, Flores-Martinez maintained Padilla-Perez promised to pay him $1,500 for smuggling the merchandise into Mexico.
Both men have remained in federal custody since their arrest. They will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Homero Ramirez, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.