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Contraband
01/06/2009

El Paso man, Mexican citizen face weapons-smuggling charges

11 AK-47 assault rifles among firearms, ammunition suspected to be smuggled into Mexico

Contraband weapons
Contraband weapons

EL PASO, Texas - A federal magistrate judge on Monday ordered a citizen of Mexico to remain in custody, and granted an El Paso man bond, following their arrest on weapons charges as a result of an investigation spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Both men are suspected of participating in a large international network that conspires to smuggle into Mexico assault weapons, which are used primarily by law enforcement and the military.

On Dec. 23 ICE special agents arrested Begmar Ivan Ruiz-Zuniga, 30, a citizen of Mexico, and Miguel Angel Dominguez, 25, a U.S. citizen, in an East El Paso home. Both men are charged with illegally smuggling weapons into Mexico from the United States.

Other agencies participating in the ICE-led ongoing investigation include: the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the El Paso Police Department; and the El Paso Sheriff's Office.

Authorities seized the following items: 11 AK-47 7.62mm X 39mm assault rifles, one upper receiver for an AR-15 assault rifle, two military-style bayonets, ballistic body armor, and miscellaneous military equipment. Among the 5,664 rounds seized were 2,560 rounds of Russian ammunition, 70 rounds of law enforcement 12-gauge shotgun demo rounds, seven M-16 ammunition magazines, and 20 rounds of armor-piercing .223 caliber ammunition.

ICE special agents seized most of the weapons and ammunition at an East El Paso home in the 11800 block of Dick Mayers. Federal agents found other weapons, weapons parts and ammunition in an apartment in the 7400 block of Phoenix Ave.

"Especially considering the ongoing bloody war between feuding drug cartels south of the border, this weapons seizure is significant," said Julio Velez, acting special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in El Paso. "This seizure highlights the importance of ICE's mission to enforce the nation's arms export control laws."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert J. Garney set bail at $50,000 for Dominguez. However, Ruiz-Zuniga, a non-immigrant visa border crossing card holder, remains jailed in the El Paso County Detention Facility.