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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit
05/15/2013

4 drug cartel members sentenced in south Texas for possessing 40mm grenades

MCALLEN, Texas – Four Mexican men, who illegally entered the United States and possessed 40mm grenades and a grenade launcher, were sentenced Wednesday to between five and 10 years in federal prison for possessing destructive devices.

These sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI); along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP).

Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa sentenced the following four men:  Juan Ricardo Martinez-Cardenas, 38, Daniel Blanco-Avila, 23, Martin Martinez-Medina, 18, and Jose Lopez-Cerda, 24. Judge Hinojosa imposed a 120-month sentence – the maximum sentence allowed by law – for three defendants: Martinez-Cardenas, Blanco-Avila and Lopez-Cerda.  For Martinez-Medina, the court downwardly departed to a 62-month-term of federal imprisonment, taking into consideration threats made against him for not following orders. As illegal aliens, they will all face deportation proceedings following their release from federal prison. On March 5, all four pleaded guilty to possessing a destructive device.

According to court documents, evidence showed that Martinez-Cardenas had been stopped in a vehicle with four 40mm grenades, an improvised 40mm grenade launcher, four AK-47-type rifles and corresponding magazines loaded with 2,791 rounds of ammunition. Through subsequent investigation, it was determined that Blanco-Avila, Martinez-Medina and Lopez-Cerda had also been involved in transporting and moving the munitions.

All four entered the United States illegally and then received the firearms and munitions which were all separately smuggled into the United States. The weapons were brought in by the Zetas drug cartel, for whom these four defendants worked, in order to avoid the Gulf Cartel. The grenades, grenade launchers, firearms and ammunition were then to be smuggled back into Mexico for use fighting in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

All four men have been detained without bond since their arrest, where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney, Steven Schammel, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.