DEL RIO, Texas — Two people were sentenced in federal court Monday for their roles in attempting to illegally export guns from the United States.
These sentences resulted from an investigation titled Operation Iron Justice by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Texas Department of Public Safety, the sheriff's departments of Bexar and Maverick (Texas) counties and the San Antonio Police Department.
Carlo Lee Reyes, aka El Raton, 41, of San Antonio, was sentenced to 240 months for aiding the attempted exportation of a firearm from the United States and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Reyes' prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release and he must pay a $5,000 fine.
Alicia Castaneda, aka Alicia Palomo, 39, also of San Antonio, was sentenced to 33 months for aiding the attempted exportation of a firearm from the United States. Her prison sentence will also be followed by three years of supervised release.
"HSI is committed to working with our state and federal law enforcement partners to dismantle and disrupt any illicit scheme involving the illegal exportation of firearms," said Janice Ayala, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. "Keeping these items out of the hands of violent cartels is a top priority for HSI."
Reyes is the last defendant to be sentenced as part of Operation Iron Justice, a wide-ranging investigation initiated by HSI in 2011 into the illegal exportation of firearms from the United States to Mexico. Reyes enlisted others to locate firearms in San Antonio, and then coordinated intermediaries who picked up the firearms and moved them to a stash house. From there, others would arrange to pick up the firearms and transport them to Eagle Pass, Texas for ultimate export to Mexico.
The investigation targeted several weapons trafficking organizations believed to be acquiring firearms for the Los Zetas drug trafficking organization. The firearms, including weapons, ammunition and assault rifle magazines, were to be smuggled to the Zetas operating in the area of Piedras Negras, Mexico for protection against rival cartels, the Mexican military and law enforcement.
The investigation identified several smuggling cells operating in the United States. Federal agents obtained evidence of the firearms trafficking, including the identification of various individuals involved, and were able to interdict and seize large numbers of firearms, rounds of ammunition, U.S. currency, as well as quantities of cocaine and marijuana.
Operation Iron Justice resulted in more than 50 arrests from indictments brought in the Western District of Texas, the seizure of 63,742 rounds of ammunition, 4,031 magazines, 220 assault rifles, more than $1 million in U.S. currency, 35 pounds of cocaine, 173 pounds of marijuana and 18 vehicles.